TARAWA 1 (RNZ PACIFIC) — A marine scientist in Hawaii says the Phoenix Islands Protected Area is incredibly strategic in the Pacific, especially in this age of climate change.

The PIPA was one of the first and one of the biggest marine reserve areas but this week the Kiribati Government announced it is opening it up to commercial fishing, ending its World Heritage status.

Dr Robert Richmond, of the University of Hawaii’s Pacific Biosciences Research Centre, said one of the critical issues for the Pacific is what is happening with migratory fish species.

He said the PIPA serves a role in trying to combat this.

“It covers a very large expanse of the ocean. Part of the problem for the Pacific is what is called the Western Pacific Warming Pool which is pushing the fish further to the south, the north and further to the east,” he said.

“And so that particular large scale MPA [marine protected area] is very strategically located in a world of climate change.”

Richmond said it is not for him to tell Kirbati what to do but he suggested alternative approaches to managing marine protected areas.

He cited the case of Palau which has allocated 20 percent of its huge zone to be fished by domestic fishers only…. PACNEWS

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