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Micronesian Association for Sustainable Aquaculture set for formal establishment

High level officials of  Micronesian governments today  began a 3-day meeting  in the Palauan capital of Koror to put the finishing touches to the establishment of an intergovernmental network organization dedicated to aquaculture development.  They will adopt the founding document, the MASA Agreement, that enables the Micronesian  Association for Sustainable Aquaculture or MASA to operate as a network and provide the platform for technical cooperation among its members.  Other administrative instruments will be adopted.  Assisting the governments in its formation is the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, made through a technical cooperation project launched in 2013. The project was requested by the governments of the Federated States of Micronesia,  Marshall Islands,  Nauru and Palau.   The objective of the assistance was to establish MASA.  The Association aims to make aquaculture in Micronesia  attain a higher priority in government development policy and socio-economic development plans.  This is expected to stimulate investments from governments and assistance organizations in aquaculture development and from private sector in aquaculture and allied enterprises.

President Tommy Remengesau, Jr  of Palau was the guest of honor and keynote speaker. He said MASA  embodies the Micronesian spirit of  sharing and solidarity.  It will pool  national resources into a strong regional asset to solve common problems and boost regional development efforts.  It would be a more effective use of national resources as well as donor grants.  The President cited five reasons that make the establishment of the association timely and relevant to the countries of the Micronesia:   the need to be self-reliant in producing food for the citizens and an increasing number of visitors; the need to develop new livelihood opportunities  and  generate jobs for an increasing number of young people entering the labor market;  the need to reduce the pressure on stressed wild fishery resources;  the need to work together to reduce vulnerability to and mitigate the risks from climate change; and the need to demonstrate to donors and technical assistance organizations that in partnering with MASA, their contributions to the partnership shall  be more efficiently  applied and the benefits widely spread.  He stressed that MASA will be owned and operated by the member governments and will thus require government investments into its operation. He emphasized investment rather than cost.  “We are investing in the future of our region”, he said.  He explained that MASA would accelerate the development of the region’s aquaculture sector to supplement production from fisheries and to do so quickly and in a sustainable trajectory,  the Micronesian governments  need to invest more into its development.  “We continue to receive significant benefits from commercial fishing”, he said, “so that it is fitting to now invest a portion of the returns from the capture of  fish  into the farming of  fish and other valuable aquatic products.  He said Palau will host the headquarters of MASA and as such the government will provide the essential resources for the Secretariat’s operation.

Representing FAO is Blaise Kuemlangan,  Chief of FAO’s   Development Law Services and lead technical officer of the project.  His office helped the legal and policy officials of the MASA governments craft the MASA Agreement. He assured the member governments that FAO stands ready to continue its association with MASA, “no longer as a  guide and provider of assistance but as a partner.”

The broad objectives of MASA as an organization are:

  1. Social: Improve food, nutritional and livelihood security for the people in remote islands as well as in more developed areas, promote a fair and equitable sharing of benefits and generate decent employment from the activities along the aquaculture value chain.
  2. Economic: Increase local production and consumption of aquaculture products and expand the options for productive employment and income generation by communities, private investors and governments.
  3. Ecological: Contribute to the enhancement of aquatic natural and biological resources and the resilience of the fragile island ecosystems, through Climate Smart aquaculture systems.
  4. Institutional: Strengthen sub-regional, national and community capacities for sector governance, research, technology development, dissemination and utilization, and environmentally and socially responsible best management

Elected chair of the Meeting is Minister F. Umiich Sengebau of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism.  He will shepherd the negotiations over the Agreement and other critical instruments. Taking part in the 3-day meeting are policy and technical officials of the four MASA countries. They opening program was joined by representatives from donor and technical assistance organizations,  aquaculture farmers groups,  research and development institutions, the Council of Chiefs of Palau, and members of the diplomatic corps.

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