Ocean action the rallying cry at Fiji Seascapes Symposium

“There is no climate action without ocean action” was the rallying cry from Fiji President, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere at the start of a three-day symposium on ocean conservation in Suva this week.

“As we call for ambitious yet specific global action to mitigate the effects of climate change, Fiji has simultaneously called for strong and urgent ocean action,” said President Ratu Wiliame opening the Fiji Seascape Symposium at the Grand Pacific Hotel yesterday.

“Our leadership role in the climate-ocean nexus transcends beyond our borders, across our Pacific seas on to other parts of the globe. 

“At the launch of this first ever Fiji Seascapes Symposium, I am hopeful that this three-day event will continue to reiterate and emphasise Fiji’s existing commitments and actions to protect its ocean home, to conserve as well as manage its marine resources in the face of climate change.”

Coming close at the heels of last week’s Our Ocean Conference in Palau in the Pacific’s northwest, four leading international environmental conservation groups; Conservation International Fiji, Wildlife Conservation Society Fiji & Oceania, International Union for Conservation of Nature and World Wide Fund for Nature, have teamed up with the Fijian Government to sponsor the event.

Under the microscope at the symposium are the four seascapes Fiji has already established as part of the island nation’s voluntary commitment made at the United Nations Ocean Conference it co-hosted at the United Nations in New York with Sweden in 2017.

Combined, Fiji’s Great Sea Reef Seascape, Vatuira Seascape, Great Astrolobe Kadavu Seascape and the Lau Seascape mean that Fiji is well on its way in meeting its commitment to reserve 30% of its oceans as marine parks.

“This event provides a platform for celebration, reflection and planning for the future of ocean action in Fiji, and to recognise the determination and aspiration of the people of Fiji to preserve its ocean biodiversity, economy and culture in the face of climate change and other external threats during this era of uncertainty that has now become the norm of our very existence,” said President Wiliame Katonivere in his opening address.

Speaking on behalf of the organisers, Conservation International Oceania Director, Susana Waqainabete-Tuisese, said delegates would also look at the work that have been done so far in ocean conservation in Fiji, including a review of the country’s national voluntary commitments, especially in extending the large-scale marine reserves across Fiji’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Securing sustainable partnerships and funding models in the administration of marine reserve areas is also on the agenda.

“Fiji contains a high biodiversity that ranges from coastal habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass and open ocean habitats like seamounts, canyons, hydrothermal vents and ridges, many of which host very high rates of species endemism and their biodiversity is being threatened by overuse and unsustainable practices in addition to climate change,” said Waqainabete-Tuisese. 

More than 100 delegates are attending the Fiji Seascape Symposium representing government, Non-Governmental Organisations, private sector agencies, academics and the news media.

Its being funded by the Fijian Government, Blue Nature Alliance, WWF, Ocean 5 Vibrant Ocean Initiative, as well as the Pacific-European Union marine partnership programme funded by the EU and Sweden.

A meke at the opening of the Fiji Seascape Symposium