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The Chairlady of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Mrs Rhea Moss-Christian; The Executive Director, Mr. Feleti Teo; The Honourable Ministers; Your Excellencies; Distinguished delegates; Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula vinaka, Talofa, Mauri, Namaste, Mālō 'etau lava, and Noa'ia.

It is with great honour and pleasure that I warmly welcome each of you on behalf of the Government of Fiji and its people to the 13th Regular Session of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. It is with both our sincerest delight and gratitude that Fiji hosts this premier meeting at the Sheraton Denarau.

We extend a warm welcome to everyone – those from within the Pacific as well as those who have travelled far to come to our sunlit shores: the distinguished delegates, support staff, the Secretariats, non-Governmental organisations, Civil Society Organisations, Inter-governmental Organisations, Media, Academia, and Observers.

For a number of you, Fiji is familiar shores. As for those who are here for the first time, we hope that you find that Fiji is a home away from home and that our God-kissed nation embraces you wholly.

We recognise and appreciate the primacy of this Commission and its renowned stature, made so by the strong-willed and erudite philosophies and performances of its membership, that has grown over the years as one of the world’s leading Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, if not the most. Fiji has been, and will continue to be committed to and involved in the activities and processes of this Commission.

We will have before us this week, a number of very important issues to deliberate on, and so, I am inclined to remind us of the need for strengthened cooperation in order to meet the various objectives set out in the Convention that binds us all.

We come from our various homelands representing our own people and I respect the need for members to uphold, or strengthen their respective national interests. With this said, I acknowledge the fact that this will present us with certain tests this week. But I view this as a ‘positive test of strength’ and with the firm belief that each member and distinguished representative is truly committed to working together to apply prudence and care to each of the important issues.

This ever-evolving modern world has gifted us with more tools that assist us in better understanding our work under the Convention and through this Commission. Technological, biological, economical, and sociological dimensions have evolved considerably in such ways that can help us better understand the surface as well as deeper aspects of the oceans and fisheries resources under our care. I urge you all to take this into account especially with how it relates and applies in the plural, and mindful of the disparities.

I am confident in saying that, despite its distinction, there is still a need for strengthening the Commission and its activities, and I am sure there is mutuality across the floor in this respect. We are the Commission: for a number of us, this is a national vocation.

Fiji is committed to the discussions and we are willing to work with you all in our efforts to yield positive outcomes. We are here with our different standpoints regarding how we envision the outcomes from this week. However, I urge that our mutual understandings and cooperation over the years transcend to other matters that require our unison so that key fish species and fisheries can enjoy the long-term sustainability that is very much necessary for us, our people, our families, and our future generations. With the ever-increasing impacts of climate change on our oceans and its fisheries resources, compounded by the pressures of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing activities, it is our collective duty more so now than ever to ensure that the Commission, begotten by us and for us, elevates the oceans and its species under our care to a state of sanctity once again, so that nothing of value may perish from the sea.

I do not intend to lengthen this address as I note the dearness of time. Therefore, I end here by saying that it is my hope that these lands and its aura may provide charm to this week’s process.

It is also my sincere hope that you enjoy your stay here in Nadi. Please take time from your busy schedules to partake in Fiji’s culture and hospitality. May you find our Fiji enjoyable and pleasant and I once again Welcome You All.

Vinaka Vakalevu, Thank You.

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