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Performing “A New Song”: Suggested Considerations for Drafting Effective Coastal Fisheries Legislation Under Climate Change

A New Song for Coastal Fisheries, a strategy and roadmap produced through a participatory workshop facilitated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, calls upon Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) to ensure strong and up-to-date management policy, legislation, and planning for coastal fisheries. While climate change is not a core focus of the roadmap, the call of A New Song presents a unique opportunity to draft new or revised fishery legislation with climate principles in mind. In light of observed and predicted physical, chemical, and biological changes in the region's waters as a result of climate change, climate-ready legislation should promote effective, sustainable management of marine resources to maintain resilience to human and environmental drivers. Recent policy documents—such as A New Song and the FAO's Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries—provide guidance that can direct legislators in this work. This paper distills the guidance from A New Song and the FAO Guidelines into twelve benchmarks and conducts a coarse analysis of how well existing legislation in Pacific Island nations meets these benchmarks. While both A New Song and the FAO Guidelines mention the importance of mitigating and adapting to climate change, they are light on specifics. Considerations specific to climate change and its associated effects should also be incorporated where new or revised legislation is necessary. This paper suggests that to effectively implement the benchmarks of A New Song and the FAO Guidelines under a changing climate, legislation must allow management flexibility in the face of environmental change, ensure that scientific understanding of climate effects supports management decisions, and minimize adverse effects of climate change on the lives, livelihoods, and rights of communities. While acknowledging that most adaptation planning will occur at the scale of sub-national policies, strategies, and plans, this paper focuses on the capacity of new or revised legislation—as called for by A New Song—to affect adaptive capacity in Pacific island coastal fisheries.