The GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA ATSEA-2 Project held its second Regional Steering Committee (RSC) meeting on 25 November 2020 to review the project’s progress in the past year and to discuss activities to be implemented for the next year and beyond. Hosted by the Government of Timor-Leste through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), the meeting was held virtually through a zoom video conference in view of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms. Munkhtuya Altangerel, Resident Representative of UNDP Timor-Leste and Mr. Ilidio Araujo, Secretary of State of Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) delivered the opening remarks. Ms. Altangerel underscored the importance of the ATSEA-2 Project in developing a common platform for neighboring countries in the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS) and various partners to work together towards the achievement of sustainable development of coastal and marine resources in the region. On behalf of the host country and the Minister of MAF, Mr. Araujo reaffirmed the Government of Timor-Leste’s support for the project and encouraged fellow ATSEA member countries to remain steadfast with their commitment in the 2014 Ministerial Declaration in order to achieve their vision for the region. The meeting discussed presentations from representatives of Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the regional secretariat on their progress in implementing the project in 2020, adjustments made to address challenges due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and work in progress and plans for the next year. Opportunities for potential collaborations with various institutions and programs in Australia were also shared. The presentations from the country members and regional secretariat were delivered by Dr. Duto Nugroho from the Fisheries Research Center in Indonesia, Mr. Celestino Da Cunha Baretto, National Director for Fisheries and Fisheries Resources Management of MAF in Timor-Leste, Mr. Rickson Lis on behalf of the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) of Papua New Guinea, Dr. Andrew Chek of the Department of Agriculture, Water, and the Environment in Australia, and Dr. Handoko Adi Susanto, Regional Project Manager (RPM) of the ATSEA-2 Project. Mr. Acacio Guterres, Director General of Fisheries, MAF of Timor-Leste, and Ms. Lazima Onta Bhatta, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Timor-Leste, served as Meeting Chair and Co-Chair, respectively.

RSC Meeting 2020 hosted by Timor-Leste
Credit: ATSEA-2

Following these presentations were a summary of progress reports on ongoing regional assessments related to various thematic areas of the programme including regional governance, marine and land-based pollution, climate change vulnerability, Marine Protected Area (MPA) network design and protection of marine turtles, combatting Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing, and Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) for red snapper. The reports highlighted the assistance needed by the consultants from country representatives, ministries and governments in collecting data and information to enable them to finalize their assessments. The results from the assessments will feed into the updating of the Transboundary Diagnostic Assessment and long-term Strategic Action Plan (SAP) that will serve as a guide to ensure sustainable development of the coastal and marine system of the ATS region at the regional, national and sub-national levels. The framework and roadmap for developing a monitoring system for the ATS SAP and a draft communications and stakeholder engagement plan were also shared during the meeting.

After a successful year in 2020, despite the global pandemic that limited travel, one-on-one meetings and ground work to say the least, the ATSEA-2 Project has made extensive progress and is looking to deliver more relevant information, knowledge and collaboration as the world moves into the new year.