The world is gearing up to meet in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012 for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or Rio+20 as it is more commonly known. Rio+20 is the 20th anniversary of the world’s largest environmental conference ever organised with the aim of addressing environmental issues in the context of human development.
Twenty years ago, the 1992 Earth Summit, also held in Rio de Janeiro, brought together over 30,000 participants, including more than 100 of the world’s leaders. It resulted in world leaders agreeing to Agenda 21 which is a set of global principles and targets for sustainable development.
That Earth Summit also resulted in three global conventions—the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; the Convention on Biological Diversity; and the Convention to Combat Desertification [later expanded to include land degradation]. For the Pacific islands, the most significant outcome of the Earth Summit was the global recognition of the special case and vulnerabilities of Small Islands Developing States and the resulting Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Islands States held in Barbados in 1994.
This first ever “SIDS summit” established the Barbados Programme of Action, which sets out a strategy and policy for implementing the global principles and targets for sustainable development as well as help mitigate the vulnerabilities of small islands. In the Pacific islands region, it was through carrying out this work that led to the development of national state of the environment reports and national environmental management strategies.
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Fiji is the latest Pacific Islands nation eyeing a fishing ban on sharks after Palau and Marshall declared their waters a shark sanctuary. Fiji is the latest Pacific Islands nation eyeing a fishing ban on sharks after Palau and Marshall declared their waters a shark sanctuary. Urged on by marine environmental groups such as PEW and the Coral Reef Alliance, the Fiji Government will be asked to either declare its waters a shark sanctuary or impose a moratorium against shark fishing.gainst shark fishing. “Those are the two options we are exploring right now,” says Commander Viliame Naupoto, Fiji’s permanent secretary for fisheries.
“We are consulting all stakeholders in the shark fishing industry, then we will bring everyone together for a symposium before a paper is submitted to cabinet for a decision.” Naupoto pointed out that Fiji’s waters has already been declared a whale sanctuary and extending that to include sharks is among options his ministry is considering. Imposing a moratorium that is currently in place for turtles to include sharks is another possibility. Under the moratorium, no turtles could be fished in Fiji until 2018.
The senior government official confirmed that last year his ministry had asked the Fiji cabinet to ban all shark products in the country. But cabinet deferred any decision, asking the Fisheries Ministry to instead seek more consultations with stakeholders. Naupoto said a questionnaire is being sent to all players in Fiji’s shark fishing industry and he is hoping a paper containing recommendations could be forwarded to the Fiji Government later in the year. Late last year, a campaigner from the US-based PEW Environment Group Gill Hepp was in Fiji to support moves against uncontrolled harvesting of sharks.
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Here in the Pacific region, wetlands are better known as our rivers, freshwater lakes, coral reefs, mangroves, mud flats, marshes and seagrass beds. Wetlands are important for many different reasons.Here in the Pacific region, wetlands are better known as our rivers, freshwater lakes, coral reefs, mangroves, mud flats, marshes and seagrass beds. Wetlands are important for many different reasons. For us in the Pacific, they are significant for their valuable ecosystem services, including the provision of fresh water and also the unique biodiversity they support. Wetlands have also made a valuable contribution to our cultures and traditions.
There are many ‘services’ that are provided by wetlands such as the provision of food, water, flood and erosion control, shoreline stabilisation, maintenanceof coastal water quality, recreation and tourism opportunities. These result in many economic and conservation benefits for our region. For example, the Lake Lanoto’o national park and its two sub-catchments, Vaisigano and Fuluasou, in Samoa form the Apia catchment, which is a very important source of water for its capital city of Apia. More generally, coral reefs and mangroves across the Pacific provide an important source of protein and income for Pacific communities through the fisheries they support such as shellfish, finfish and crabs.
Moreover, coral reefs and mangroves are the first line of defense against coastal erosion and inundation from storm surges; they help to protect coastal communities.
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SPREP has an active marine species programme focused on three groups of marine animals: dugongs, marine turtles and cetaceans (whales and dolphins).
As 2012 rolls out, SPREP’s Marine Species Programme will review its regional action plans which provide guidelines on priority actions for the protection of endangered marine species.
Close cooperation with relevant partners has been, and will continue to be, a key part of our approach area to strengthen the protection of marine species of conservation concern.The recovery and maintenance of populationsof over half of the world’s known species of cetaceans, six of the seven marine turtle species, and the world’s largest remaining populations of dugongs across the expanse of the Pacific Ocean is strongly linked to continuing the cultures and identity of Pacific people. These species are reflected in Pacific song and history, and tales of these great animals directing and sustaining our ancestors as they moved from island to island over the years of voyaging and settling in the region.
This value holds true today where in many Pacific Islands cultures, the presentation of either the animal or an item derived from it denotes high respect or regard accorded to the visiting party. This is still quite visible in Fiji through the presentation of a tabua (tooth of the sperm whale) or in the Solomon Islands where dolphin teeth are a form of currency. Marine species are also highly valued for food while their shells, skin and bones are often used for jewellery and ornaments. This clearly confirms the importance of these creatures to Pacific peoples’ identities, ways of life and heritage.
Unfortunately, the winds of change have brought about many challenges for these animals.The combination of increasing human populations and the erosion of cultural practices that once afforded these animals protection, has severely impacted several species, resulting in fragmentation of populations and even local
extinctions. The challenge of addressing these and count less other threats to ensure the continued existence of these iconic species and maintain
biodiversity in the Pacific Islands region and across the globe is immense. The region, however, recognises this and through SPREP and other partners, is working towards protecting these species.
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Clean Pacific — two powerful words that evoke images of the environment our fore fathers enjoyed and the kind of environment our children and grandchildren by right should enjoy.Two simple words, yet they embody the aspirations for all Pacific people.It is thus fitting that Clean Pacific is the theme of SPREP’s awareness campaign for 2012. But, what does a Clean Pacific mean? Increasing waste generation and pollution seems almostinevitable with increasing economic growth anda transition to a consumer society in our Pacificregion. This often seems the lesson to be learnt from countries that have previously travelled the same path.A Clean Pacific hinges on avoiding those mistakes. It relies on everyone from the most senior politician to the smallest family taking immediate and responsible action to solve the dual problems of waste and pollution.The main aim of the Clean Pacific campaignis to galvanise actions at all levels from govern-ment to grassroots to properly manage waste andcontrol pollution.There are many challenges for waste manage-ment in the Pacific. Isolated populations andremote locations are challenges which are beyondour control.At the same time they underscore the needto focus on local solutions that can be sustainedregardless of external factors such as fuel pricesand shipping costs.
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