NEW YORK,09 JUNE 2017 (ISLANDS BUSINESS)— Fiji today unveiled almost twenty commitments on ocean conservation in the margins of the inaugural United Nations ocean conference in New York with pledges to pass legislation that will protect sharks, sting rays, turtles, spawning groupers, whales and dolphins.


The island nation further announced plans to reduce the use of plastic bags, impose a plastic bottle and container levy, and put in place a nationwide plan to protect its coastlines from storm surges and land loss.


Fiji’s Minister of Fisheries Commander Semi Koroilavesau unveiled a total of 17 voluntary commitments that are all linked to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14, on ocean conservation and sustainability before delegates that included Fiji’s Prime Minister and co-President of the UN Oceans Conference, Rear Admiral (retired) Frank Bainimarama.


The 17 packages of commitment however fell short of declaring a complete ban on the use of plastics, nor did it nationalise a community initiative of declaring all of the country’s customary fishing grounds as marine protected areas under the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas, the FLMMA network.


“To address the challenge of overuse and competing usage of coastal habitats and open ocean habitats, the Fiji Government in partnership with key stakeholders will develop a legally recognised multiple-use marine spatial plan for the entirety of its ocean, including an ecologically representative network of marine protected areas,” said Commander Koroilavesau. He was mum however on how extensive these proposed MPAs would be.


Gender inclusivity and empowerment in Fiji’s fishing industry was commitment number eleven while Fiji’s growing but lucrative pearl farming industry forms the backbone of the commitment by the Pacific island state to crate a “blue industry.”


Public private partnership is also demonstrated in the commitment to create a Fiji clean boating programme at Fiji’s resort island on Port Denarau, and the Fiji Fishing Industry Association will take the lead in the introduction of eco-labelling and catch certification to ensure that Fiji enjoys “optimum value for the little [tuna] our fleet catches.”


The ministry of fisheries is the lead partner in commitment number four, a ban on the use of destructive fishing practices offshore, and it will also work with selected environmental agencies to legislate the protection of sea turtles, whales and dolphins, spawning groupers and sharks and rays. ….PACNEWS