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Kiribati’s Minister for Fisheries & Marine Resources Advocates for Tuna Conservation in the Face of Climate Change

Photo: Reuters

The small island nation of Kiribati faces a multitude of challenges due to the impact of climate change, and one of the most significant concerns is the effect on its fisheries. On 11 December 2023, at a side event during COP28 in Dubai, Ribanataake Tiwau, the Minister for Fisheries & Marine Resources of Kiribati, highlighted the critical importance of tuna to his country’s economy and food security. The panel discussion, held at the Moana Pasifika Pavilion and moderated by Dr. Manu Tupou Roosen, Director General of the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), shed light on the pressing issues faced by small island nations like Kiribati in the wake of climate change. Tuna, a vital resource for Kiribati, has long been central to the nation’s identity, culture, and economy. Minister Tiwau emphasized the significance of tuna fisheries for Kiribati’s people, stating that it not only provides a major source of employment and income but also plays a crucial role in ensuring food security for the nation’s population. However, the increasing challenges posed by climate change, including rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and changing migration patterns of fish stocks, are threatening the sustainability of tuna fisheries in the region.

During the panel discussion, Minister Tiwau underscored the urgent need for global cooperation to address the impact of climate change on fisheries, particularly focusing on the conservation and sustainable management of tuna stocks. He stressed the importance of collaborative efforts among nations, international organizations, and stakeholders to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on marine resources. Furthermore, he advocated for the implementation of science-based management strategies and the adoption of innovative technologies to monitor and conserve tuna populations in the face of environmental changes. Dr. Manu Tupou Roosen, in her role as the moderator, echoed Minister Tiwau’s concerns and emphasized the significance of the Pacific region’s fisheries to the global community. She highlighted the interconnectedness of ocean ecosystems and the need for integrated approaches to address the challenges posed by climate change, calling for increased support and investment in sustainable fisheries management and conservation efforts in the Pacific. The panel discussion also addressed the importance of empowering local communities and indigenous knowledge in sustainable fisheries management. Minister Tiwau emphasized the traditional practices and cultural heritage of Kiribati’s people, which have long been intertwined with the sustainable use of marine resources. He underscored the need to integrate traditional wisdom with modern scientific approaches to develop effective strategies for adaptation and resilience in the face of changing environmental conditions. Minister Tiwau’s participation in the COP28 side event in Dubai served as a poignant reminder of the vulnerability of small island nations like Kiribati in the face of climate change. His advocacy for the conservation of tuna fisheries and sustainable management of marine resources reflects the urgent need for concerted global action to address the impact of climate change on fisheries. As the international community strives to tackle the challenges of a changing climate, the voices of leaders like Minister Tiwau play a crucial role in raising awareness and fostering collaborative efforts to safeguard the future of marine ecosystems and the livelihoods of coastal communities. The event at the Moana Pasifika Pavilion in Dubai provided a platform for meaningful dialogue and highlighted the pressing need to prioritize the conservation of marine resources, particularly in vulnerable regions such as the Pacific.

By Ovidiu Stanica

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