Acting Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Hon. Moffat Fugui has warned that future fishing access agreements with distant water fishing nations and fishing fleets will be conditional on the satisfactory negotiation of an agreement that will be clearly linked to onshore investments.

"If these new requirements are not met, Solomon Islands will simply walk away and access to fish in its waters will not be granted."

This was revealed by Hon. Fugui during the Regional Fisheries and Trade Ministers joint meeting held recently in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

The leaders met to finalize their positions on fisheries issues in preparation for their next round of Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with the EU scheduled for mid-November 2011 in Brussels.

The EU is linking the request by island countries for global sourcing of fresh and frozen fish to a 5% guarantee of access to fish in their waters.

Currently the EU has a bilateral fishing agreement with Solomon Islands but no allocation of days under the newly implemented Vessel Day Scheme (VDS). This could be accommodated in the negotiation of new fishing access agreements.

"We do not envisage having much difficulty in meeting the 5% access guarantee upon the annual renegotiation of our fishing access agreements; which will be conditional on onshore investments,"

"Any agreement to guarantee access under an EPA should not therefore undermine our efforts to link all our future fishing access agreements to onshore investments. This is also a move strongly advocated by the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) group; of which Solomon Islands is a member." Mr. Fugui stressed.

This was the second time a joint meeting of Fisheries and Trade Ministers of the Pacific bloc of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States was held to progress fisheries issues in the EPA negotiations.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Mr. Peter Shanel, also attended this meeting. Both Ministers will arrive back in the country on Friday.

Source: Press Release, Government Communications Unit