PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is confident the country’s fisheries sector can improve its economic returns thanks to work undertaken by the Pacific Islands Forum.

Speaking at 47th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting the Prime Minister said fisheries is a significant sector for all Forum countries.

“Excellent work is being undertaken by the Fisheries Task Force through co-operation at a regional level,” PM O’Neill said from Pohnpei.

“The Fisheries Task Force is working to a programme called for by Leaders to develop a programme to increase economic returns from fisheries within 5 years.

“Improving economic returns from fisheries has positive implications for multiple stakeholders including not only fisheries operators and their employees, but also associated sectors.

“One of the keys for Papua New Guinea is to expand our downstream processing so that we add more value before we export.”

The Prime Minister said the issue of climate change and extreme weather will continue to be one of the Forum’s main areas of discussion and action.

“Pacific Islands Forum states are the most climate change vulnerable communities in the world.

“Already many people have lost their lives, their homes have been destroyed and some communities unable to return to their land.

“Forum nations are in agreement that we have to bring pressure on polluting countries to reduce their emissions, and for at-risk communities to be able to access resources to help protect themselves.

“Papua New Guinea was the first country to submit the Post- COP21 Climate Action Plan.

“We have also ratified the Bill on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

“The commitment by the United States and China to ratify the Agreement is further welcomed.”

Prime Minister O’Neill is the outgoing Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, after the Summit was held in Port Moresby in 2015. He officially handed over Chair responsibilities to the President of the Federated States of Micronesia Peter Christian at the opening ceremony of the 47th PIF.

Other issues discussed by Leaders included business mobility, the drawdown of RAMSI, Gender Equality, Cybercrime and disaster risk management.