MASA is Born, Takes Tentative Steps
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MASA is Born, Takes Tentative Steps

A new intergovernmental network organization – the Micronesian Association for Aquaculture Development — came into force on 25 November 2015 when high level officials of the founding member governments signed its charter.  The adoption of the MASA Agreement marked the transition of MASA as a project assisted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to MASA as an independent organization, owned and operated by its member governments.   The event was held in Palau’s capital of Koror. The Government of Palau hosted the meeting and will also host the headquarters of the Association. The other members are the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands and Nauru.

Inaugural Meeting

After the signing of the Agreement, the Association convened their first meeting and also adopted the MASA administrative instruments and its Three-Year Technical Work Program.   Palau will meanwhile constitute an Interim Secretariat at the Bureau of Marine Resources, according to Hon. F. Umiich Sengebau, Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism, who was elected Chair of the Association.  Vice Chair is Peter Diema, Member of the Board of Directors of Nauru’s Marine Resources and Fishery Authority.

One of its first tasks is to draft the year’s plan of work; the Association has decided to meet again in July next year also in Koror.


Left to right are Valentin Martin of FSM, F. Umiich Sengebau of Palau, Michael Konelios of the Marshall Islands and Peter Diema of Nauru

Left to right are Valentin Martin of FSM, F. Umiich Sengebau of Palau, Michael Konelios of the Marshall Islands and Peter Diema of Nauru


At the signing ceremony, Minister Sengebau declared that the founding governments have formally established the Micronesian Association for Sustainable Aquaculture, which means they have agreed to work together to pursue the goals of the Association, committed to support and provide the resources for MASA so that it fulfills the region’s  expectations.  “We shall continue to work with other institutions in productive and mutually beneficial partnerships, but whether we reach our goal or falter and stumble is now entirely up to us”, he said.   The heads of delegations of the other governments likewise hailed the birth of MASA and pledged their support.

Republic of the Marshall Islands Minister for Resources, Hon. Michael Konelios said establishing MASA is a worthwhile accomplishment to which RMI is committed to fully support as it takes its first difficult steps.

Nauru’s Peter Diema, pointed out that the signing — which marks the fruition of years of discussions that began in 2009 among FAO, SPC and Governments — is the beginning of a new movement and invigorating development for aquaculture in member countries He  said aquaculture is in the blood of the Nauruan people, a part of their culture and heritage through milkfish farming, a tradition that had been lost through modernization. The economic crisis that the Nauruans experienced was the wakeup call that brought aquaculture back to the forefront, especially with regards to sustainable livelihood. Sustainable livelihood in aquaculture encapsulates food security, income generation and alternative livelihood, he declared.

FSM’s deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Resources and Development Valentin Martin said the government recognizes the importance of the establishment of MASA, hence the commitment and endorsement of the event to establish MASA by President Peter Christian  at the 15th Micronesian President Summit held in Majuro, July 2015.  He added that the management and development of aquaculture and coastal fisheries are a high priority in the National and State Strategic Development Plans. The National Government has undertaken consultations with all the FSM states in developing a national aquaculture development and management policy with technical assistance and support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). Through MASA, FSM expects effective collaborations and partnership by development partners, regional organizations as well as technical institutions in delivering required technical services and assistance to members of the Association, Mr Valentin declared.

Presidential call for self-reliance and partnerships

At the opening of the High Level Officials Meeting on 23 November, President Tommy Remengesau, Jr of Palau mentioned four reasons aquaculture should be given high priority in the Micronesian countries:  the need to increasingly  become self-reliant in producing food for their citizens  and the  increasing number of visitors;  the need to find new livelihood opportunities  and jobs for an increasing number of young people entering the labor market, the need to reduce the pressure on already stressed wild fishery resources,  and the very urgent need to work together to reduce vulnerability and mitigate the risks to welfare of climate change impacts.  He added that the members of the Association should also demonstrate to donor agencies and technical assistance organizations that in partnering with MASA, their contributions to the partnership would be more efficiently applied and the benefits more widely spread.

Presidents’ endorsement

He recalled that the meeting of high level officials to establish MASA was endorsed by the Micronesian Presidents Summit (MPS) held in Majuro, Marshall Islands in July 2015. The MPS is an annual meeting of the presidents of Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau.


In FAO also announced the prospect of South-South Cooperation as a mechanism to support the aquaculture development of the four MASA countries. A project concept was presented at the High Level Officials Meeting as an opportunity for implementation with MASA in a , likely three-party partnership with FAO and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Among its objectives is to develop guides for public and private investments to support aquaculture growth.

As MASA is now an independent organization and embarking on collaborative projects in partnership with other organizations, an assessment of the capacity for aquaculture management and development in the Micronesian region would be one of the activities in its work plan for 2016. Additionally, a MASA website is being prepared to support outreach and development .

Mr. Gavin Wall, FAO Sub-regional coordinator for the Pacific expressed his gratitude to the countries and partners in successfully concluding the work of the FAO technical cooperation project. In looking forward, Mr. Wall encouraged the countries to be pragmatic in their approach to aquaculture development and growth. Understanding and managing technical and financial risks will facilitate good decision making by governments and the private sector and an area where FAO could contribute assistance in the future he said.

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