Following the decision made at the 34th World Heritage Committee meeting held in Brazil last week, celebrations were high amongst Kiribati nationals residing in Fiji as they came together on Monday night to honor the efforts and the recognition awarded to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area as one of the new World Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO.
Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is the largest marine environment in the world that has remained intact thanks to its remoteness. Covering 408,250 sq.km of marine and terrestrial habitats, PIPA hosts one of the world’s largest intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems, together with 14 known underwater sea mounts and other deep-sea habitats. The structure and functioning of PIPA’s ecosystems illustrates its pristine nature and importance as a migration route and reservoir.
PIPA cover’s approximately 11% of the entire Economic Exclusive Zone of Kiribati and is declared a no fishing zone by the government.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday the President of Kiribati, His Execellency Anote Tong, expressed his delight at the new Sites chosen by the World Heritage Committee citing it as a “historical moment for the small island nation of Kiribati, its partners as well as the wider Pacific.”
“The profile of our region at the international level will be raised as a result of this. The preservation of the Phoenix Islands and the surrounding ocean is our gift to humanity and contribution to international efforts to significantly reduce biodiversity loss by 2010.”
Having begun with the Listing process in 2006, this achievement has come a long way involving various efforts and support from different bodies including the New England Aquarium, Conservation International (CI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“IUCN and partners of the Roundtable for Nature Conservation congratulate Kiribati on their leadership in raising the importance of our ocean and their gifting of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area to the world – the challenge now is for governments, donors and conservation partners to stand with the people of Kiribati and provide the support to manage this incredible new heritage site” said Taholo Kami, Regional Director for IUCN.
Director for UNESCO’s Apia Office – Dr. Vise Pongi said “it is encouraging to see that we now have more Sites being listed from the Pacific. One of the potentials that Pacific Islands have is taking advantage of the natural resources they own and turning it into a sustainable economic enterprise”
“Many other countries are realizing the value of their island heritage. Fiji is currently finalizing its work to have Levuka listed as a cultural site”
The landscapes of Papahanaumokuakea in Hawai’i and Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands have also been inscribed as new Sites on the World Heritage List.