Foreign Affairs Minister, Patteson Oti, told the Post Forum Dialogue Plenary session that two of the main tuna species of the region are on the verge of becoming over fished.

"The current level of fishing efforts on big eye and yellow fin is considered to be unsustainable and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Scientific Committee is calling for fishing efforts on both stocks to be reduced."

Pacific Island countries and their developing partners in the fisheries industries are urged to do all they can to ensure that tuna stocks are not depleted beyond the recommended catch targets.

"In short, there is a genuine risk that these fisheries will go the same way as big eye and yellow fin stocks of the world, where they have been fished unsustainably and significant economic opportunities have been foregone."

Mr Oti also said the benefits of fisheries in the Pacific region, valued in excess of US$2 billion per year, have gone largely to distant water fishing nations including Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan/ROC, Korea, the United States and the European Community.

Furthermore, of more than 1,200 vessels registered on the FFA vessel register, only 194 are flagged to Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) members. And of the 2 million tones caught each year, only around 460,000 tones are taken by the national fleets of FFA members, he said.

Mr Oti said tuna fisheries of the Pacific are an essential economic, social and cultural resource for all Forum member countries, and for many, the only significant renewable resource.

With effective management, Pacific Island countries could fulfill their fisheries development aspirations and derive greater share of the economic benefits that flow from fisheries resources, the Minister said.

The Solomon Islands delegation is scheduled to meet its bilateral partners today before returning to Solomon Islands on Saturday.