Thursday, 21 June 2012

Pacific Oceanscape initiative targets critical issues

By Kathleen Leewai, SPREP

21 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - Pacific Island nations have come together in an effort to conserve their most valuable resource, the Pacific Ocean, with the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape.

The Pacific Oceanscape covers an area of nearly 40 million square kilometers (15.4 million square miles), which is over 7.9 percent of the Earth’s surface.

L - R Sefanaia Nawadra SPREP, Russell Miittermeier CI
Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International, said, “The Pacific Oceanscape is an amazing concept, on a scale unlike anything we are ever going to see again.”

“It is more than 4 times the size of the United States, including Alaska, and more than 4 times the size of Brazil.”

This area houses one-third of the world’s tuna stocks and related species, but over-fishing has seen a decline in these resources.

This, along with rising sea levels, ocean warming, pollution and ocean acidification, has meant the downfall of livelihoods of Pacific Islanders.

The framework was first proposed by the government of Kiribati and aims to protect, manage, maintain, and sustain the cultural and natural integrity of the ocean.

It was endorsed by leaders at the Pacific Island Forum, who saw the initiative as a vehicle to build pride, leadership, learning and cooperation across an ocean environment.

Since the introduction of the framework, 15 island nations have been cooperating with regional intergovernmental agencies and the conservation community to implement the Pacific Oceanscape initiative.

“To have all the leaders of countries and territories in one region coming together to express their concern, interest and common approach to the future of their region is unheard of, it’s phenomenal,” said Mr. Mittermeier.

“I think what Kiribati is doing now with the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) with 1.2 million square kilometers of protection area, and with the Cook Islands and Tokelau following suit, is unbelievable.”

The Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape has also been seen by leaders as a catalyst for action for the Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy (PIROP) which aims to conserve the ocean that sustains and threatens our very survival for future generations and, indeed, for global well-being.

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