More than 200 delegates were welcomed into the auditorium by Avarua School pupils, led by Ministry of Marine Resources secretary Ben Ponia, Scientific Committee chairwoman Berry Muller, WCPFC executive director Feleti Teo and Finance minister and acting prime minister Mark Brown.
In front of delegates from countries including Canada, China, Australia, Japan and the Philippines, Brown, who is also the acting Minister of Marine Resources, delivered the opening address.
“Today, you will continue the pursuit of understanding the complex array of biological and technological factors that underpin the Pacific Ocean,” Brown said.
“Your delegations will provide the scientific advice upon which conservation and management measures are laid. The significance of your mission can not be understated.
“Twenty per cent of the area of the world is under your domain, encompassing colossal fisheries and marine species. Annually, billions of dollars of international trade revenue will be effected. At stake is thousands, if not millions of people whose livelihoods and subsistence are intertwined.”
Brown outlined the efforts had made in protecting its marine resources so far, from the country’s leaders making a call to action at the United Nations Oceans conference in June, to the steadfast pride in local marine heritage which he said meant the Cook Islands’ responsibilities would not be avoided.
“This we have demonstrated in our commitment to the Marae Moana legislation,” Brown said.
“This enactment is a commitment in ensuring the integration of all of our ocean related policies and government regulations to conserve the resources for future generations, protecting the integrity of our environment and striving to meet best international practise wherever possible.”
Speaking as Minister of Finance, Brown said the investments in sustainable fisheries had proven fruitful.
WCPFC executive director Teo, who spoke of the importance of the scientific community.
“This Commission must base its work and decisions on the best scientific information and advice available.
”We look to this committee to give the targeted scientific advice that will enable it to inform its decisions on the necessary management measures that will accomplish its fundamental goal, which is to ensure through effective management the long-term conservation and sustainable use of the fish stocks.”
“As I mentioned earlier, your agenda for this week and next is substantial and there are many other key issues for your consideration, as the WCPFC depends critically on your clear scientific advice and recommendations.”