Stronger commitment from Pacific Island Leaders is needed to raise awareness on the importance of marine resources and the status of the Pacific Ocean.
The comment was made by World Wide Fund for Nature Pacific-Representative, Kesaia Tabunakawai in a presentation at the recent Pacific Island Development Forum Leaders Summit held in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on the upcoming study of the direct economic and societal value of the ocean assets of the Melanesian region which will be launched at the end of August.
While addressing Heads of Government, Leaders from the private and civil society sectors, Tabunakawai highlighted that as the Pacific prepares for the Oceans Summit in June of 2017 in Fiji, stronger partnerships and commitment is needed to ensure that the global and regional implementation of the framework will enable Pacific Island States to deliver their commitments derived from Sustainable Development Goal 14 on Oceans in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The upcoming report will boost these conversations.
“The Pacific Ocean and its bountiful marine resources have provided for the needs of Pacific people for many generations, the ocean is the heart of the Pacific, representing our traditions, our cultures and embodying the identity of all who live in this vast region,”
“Sadly for far too long now, we have been taking the ocean and its resources for granted- we have taken without question that the ocean will continue to provide, but I am quite certain that no-one here present is under any illusion that this course can continue unchecked,” Tabunakawai said.
“We recognize that the ocean is far more than Fish and that in fact, a healthy ocean provides opportunities for Tourism, Education, Trade and Transportation and many communities depend on it for their food and well-being”.
Tabunakawai said other services are provided by the ocean and are still being understood one such is the ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere and the many possibilities for medical science which still remains unexplored.
She informed the Pacific Leaders that in 2014, WWF had commissioned a global study to consider the overall asset base of the Pacific Ocean by analyzing the services provided by the various components which included coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves, fisheries and coastal areas.
“The study had valued the global oceans resources and services at more than US$24 trillion.” Tabunakawai said.
She added that while it also recognized that many eco-systems were hard to quantify, the figure was an estimate. For Melanesia this is especially true for the costal and inshore marine areas, where the majority of people source their livelihood from and also the area where country’s food and protein security lies. This is a very small area surrounding the coastlines of Melanesia against country EEZ.
The global report “Reviving the Ocean Economy” further analysed these major assets that support the ocean economy to see what kind of condition those assets are in. Similarly the Melanesia report is looking at this aspect of the Melanesia Ocean.
“Sadly the news is not good for the ocean from a global perspective, with many of the world’s ocean assets trending in the wrong direction, overharvesting of coastal and offshore resources, land and sea based pollution and inappropriate coastal development coupled with climate change related coral bleaching and natural disasters are leading to weakened reefs, coastal areas and decreasing fish populations”.
“All this impacts on our food security, livelihoods and national economies and as populations continue to rise, there is a real concern that unless real action is taken to change current practices, the ocean is in danger of no longer being able to support the planet and its bounty.”
Tabunakawai emphasised that the current ocean status suggests that a holistic approach is needed to focus on the rapid implementation of existing commitments such as the MSG Inshore Fisheries Roadmap which is an eco-system based approach to resource management that takes into account lessons from community based and locally managed approaches which is essential if efforts are to be sustainable. [/restrict]