The first phase of the Arafura and Timor Seas Ecosystem Action project (known as ATSEA-1) was started in Papua New Guinea (PNG) but did not continue through to completion. One of the reasons for this was a perceived lack of engagement by key stakeholders in PNG. To address this issue and prepare for the launch of the GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA ATSEA-2 Programme, the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) set out to engage key regional stakeholders during an inception meeting.
Held via Zoom on 31 May 2021, the virtual inception meeting was attended by a range of stakeholders, including representatives from NFA, National Fisheries College, PNG Sustainable Program Ltd, OK Tedi Development Program Ltd, and the University of PNG. Gender representation was approximately equal, with both male and female participants. The overall objective of the meeting was to facilitate a common understanding and ensure joint ownership of the Programme by partners and stakeholders, in terms of its vision, aims, objectives and outputs. In addition, the meeting reviewed key elements of the Strategic Results Framework, in a bid to facilitate discussion between stakeholders and to identify areas for potential collaboration.
In welcoming the stakeholders to the meeting, Mr. John Kasu, who is the Manager Director of the National Fisheries Authority (NFA), said: “We are pleased to have you on this national committee (National Inter-Ministerial Committee) and forum (Stakeholder Partnership Forum) to share ideas and work together to implement the ATSEA-2 Programme”. The Regional Project Management Unit (RPMU) introduced ATSEA-2 to the PNG stakeholders and the National Coordination Unit (NCU) provided an update on the Programme in PNG. Stakeholders who are implementing fisheries projects discussed their work and ways they can cooperate with ATSEA-2 in South Fly. In response, the stakeholders expressed their support for the Programme and were happy to get involved.
The stakeholders from Western Province and South Fly district did not join the Zoom meeting, due to poor internet connectivity. However, a face-to-face meeting was held in Daru with the government officials and an NGO, while in Kadawa village some of the villagers along the South Fly coast were also included in initial meetings, where the ATSEA-2 Programme was introduced to them and their involvement was discussed. These sessions were held a week prior to the main inception meeting, held in Port Moresby, PNG.
PNG is central to the management of ATS; fisheries in the Arafura Sea are supported by the same fish stocks from the adjacent Torres Strait that borders Australia. Now that the Government of PNG has decided to participate in the ATSEA-2 Programme, the regional response has been strengthened and will ultimately lead to better governance of marine resources in the ATS region.
In the South Fly District of Western Province, the ATSEA 2 Programme will support the development of an artisanal fisheries management plan, which is approved by the NFA and endorsed by the Treaty Villages Council and Western Province Administration.
The challenge now is to keep stakeholders engaged and motivated; especially the key state agencies, whose continued engagement will be key to the implementation of the Programme. The primary beneficiaries are the NFA, the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA), Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) and Wester Province and South Fly District Administrations.
Bringing all these groups together for a single meeting was more challenging than engaging with each of them separately. However, the meeting was an important and symbolic first step for ATSEA-2; by bringing all stakeholders to the table, the Programme was able to address previous shortcomings, synergise all parties around a set of common objectives and set a precedent for future cooperation.