Interview with Ms. Maria Sahib, International Fisheries Policy Analyst in Marshall Islands
Reinforcing shared interests between Japan and the Pacific Islands countries through continued dialogue
Ms. Maria Sahib came to Japan with Dr. Transform Aqorau to attend a seminar organized by the Sasakawa Pacific Island Nations Fund (SPF SPINF). We interviewed her about the current fisheries conditions and policies in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The interview also asked Ms. Sahib, who has the air of a next-generation leader for the Pacific Island countries, about these countries' future outlook and their relations with Japan and other countries.
―You are from Fiji but now live in the Marshall Islands. What are the differences between the two countries in everyday living?
There is a big difference between the Marshall Islands and Fiji, although people think all the island countries in the Pacific are the same. The Marshall Islands is an atoll, and everything is flat, whereas Fiji is volcanic islands. There are therefore a lot of physical and geographical differences. Plants do not grow very much in the Marshal Islands, so we import a lot of foods. But fish are tastier in the Marshalls than in Fiji. The work environment is also different because the Marshall Islands follow the American system while Fiji follows the British system.
―The PNA's initiatives have brought about improvement in resource management and fiscal status of member countries.
The PNA established its office in 2010, and the Marshall Islands is a host to the office. The member countries came up with a fisheries management tool called the VDS (Vessel Day Scheme), which has quadrupled revenues that have been generated over the last 4 to 5 years. The money has been used to invest into the fisheries management system, while also assisting other public organizations. There are 24 atoll communities in the Marshall Islands, and the money has been used to implement conservation measures for those communities. There have been a lot of things that the fisheries income has done.
―What is your impression about bilateral ties between the Marshall Islands or Fiji and Japan?
There is a bilateral agreement between the Japanese Fisheries Agency and the Marshall Islands government, where Japanese fishing boats can come and fish in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Most of the bigeyes caught in the Marshall Islands' EEZ go straight to Japan. There was a time when there were direct flights to Fiji, and a lot of tourists from Japan visited Fiji. Fiji is trying to revive the relationship. Both Fiji and the Marshall Islands have good diplomatic relations with Japan.
―The SPF SPINF is launching the Cutting-Edge Series, in an attempt to communicate Pacific Island nations' initiatives directly to Japan.
The SPF's role is important in the changing diplomacy that's taking place for fisheries. It is important to keep this dialogue going on, so that there is an understanding on both sides how we can cooperate with each other to improve on relations and support each other's national aspirations. What the SPF has started is really important, and very timely for both Japan and the Pacific Island countries.
View the video below for a full interview with Ms. Maria Sahib.