Casting Nets of Inclusion: Voice of equity for resilient Pacific Fisheries

Feature Image caption
Community representatives from Vanuatu - Rose Gere and Leisavi Daisy Kenneth.
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Noumea, New Caledonia – In the heart of the Pacific, the bustling halls of the Pacific Community (SPC) house echoed with the vibrant voices of coastal fisheries and aquaculture experts. Representatives from the 20 Pacific Island countries and territories gathered, creating a rich tapestry of diverse experiences and perspectives.

The symbol was powerful, for the Pacific Community house itself resembled a reversed traditional canoe from the Pacific. In this shared space, it was as if everyone was on the same canoe, navigating the currents of challenges and opportunities together.

Amidst this gathering, Tarusila Veibi, a passionate advocate for Community-Based Fisheries Management (CBFM) from Fiji, took the stage.

“Being a woman doesn’t stop us from talking and sharing our ideas about our coastal fisheries. But we always must use our won channel because we can’t have direct access to the conversation. We are always left behind; we are not part of the decision-making,” expressed Tarusila, her words echoing the sentiments of many.

The room seemed to hold its breath, enveloped in the palpable emotion of her words. With courage and determination, she shared the difficulties and challenges she faced as a woman fisher striving to make her voice heard. Her personal struggles mirrored the broader challenges women in her community encountered on their journey toward meaningful participation in CBFM.

Meanwhile, a profound moment unfolded as the Vanuatu ladies Rose Gere and Leisavi Daisy Kenneth, carrying with them the weight of tradition and culture, laid down their traditional mat on the conference floor. In this simple yet powerful gesture, they shared stories that transcended words—stories woven into the fabric of their identity, shaped by the ebb and flow of Pacific waters.

As the session unfolded, the Wallis and Futuna representative Lotolelei Manufekai, with sincerity in his voice, offered vocal support, "Continue what you do, please. It's invaluable. We truly need that kind of commitment and dedication here in the Pacific."

In this vibrant atmosphere, the session became more than a discussion; it evolved into a collective narrative of resilience, shared challenges, and the unwavering spirit of those dedicated to shaping a more inclusive and sustainable future for coastal fisheries across the Pacific.

This session was part of the broader Community-Based Fisheries Dialogue (CBFD), a two-day meeting held independently within the Regional Technical Meeting on Coastal Fisheries and Aquaculture in the Pacific. The CBFD serves as a crucial regional platform for civil society organizations (CSOs) and other non-state actors (NSAs) to provide advice on key needs and issues related to coastal fisheries resources across the Pacific.

The dialogue facilitates the exchange of experience and lessons learned from community-based initiatives, contributing to a more inclusive and informed approach to coastal fisheries management. It underscores the commitment to Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI) in the Pacific, ensuring that the voices of women and marginalized groups are central to the dialogue on the sustainable future of Pacific fisheries.

Meanwhile, in the continuation commitment to fostering collaboration, the 3rd Community-Based Fisheries Dialogue (CBFD3) unfolded during the Sixth SPC Regional Technical Meeting on Coastal Fisheries and Aquaculture. With a robust participation of at least 37 representatives from Civil Society Organizations/Non-State Actors groups, including representatives from fisheries agencies and other observers, the dialogue was characterized by engaging formats such as plenary sessions, talanoa discussions, and breakout group interactions.

This was to build on the momentum from CBFD2, CBFD3 predominantly centered on actively engaging and amplifying the voices of CSO/NSA groups.

Additionally, some of the key issues for the 2024 Small Scale Fisheries Summit have been identified, including the imperative to share lessons learned, address challenges of inclusion within traditional governance systems, combat destructive fishing practices, enhance post-harvest processes, promote gender equality and social inclusion, and align global policies with regional and community-level initiatives.

This comprehensive agenda underscores SPC’s commitment to sustainable fisheries management and community well-being.

Melesila Welert words, a proud Tongan woman, provided a compelling conclusion to the session: "A bird needs two wings to fly, and that is woman and man. As a grandmother and a mother, I can see it makes a difference when you think and do things that way." Her words resonated, emphasizing the importance of gender equity and social inclusion (GESI) in the fisheries space.

The GESI programme is funded by PEUMP through the European Union and the Government of Sweden and the Australia funded Pathways project through the University of Wollongong.



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