Suva, Fiji. Over-exploitation, invasive alien species, logging, agriculture, mining, fishing, and climate change are just some of the issues threatening our Pacific Islands’ species and ecosystems.
Participants on Day Two of the Pacific Islands Species Forum focused on threats to our island nations, and how we might combat these in order to sustainably manage our resources for today and the next generation.
The day began with an inspiring welcome from John Scanlon, Director General for CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Participants shared information on species utilised in trade, with presentations ranging from birds in Papua New Guinea, to Humphead Wrasse in Fiji, to the global trade in sharks and rays, and the appetite for shark fin soup in Hong Kong.
In line with the rest of the Species Forum, government perspectives were an important part of the discussions, and frank insights were shared about the challenges and difficulties faced by the Samoan, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu governments when trying to ensure sustainable use of species found in trade. This difficulty was captured by John Scanlon, who remarked in his opening speech, “States often seek assistance for implementing CITES – as the non-detriment finding process is particularly important, we’re pleased to see that the Australian Scientific Authority is there at the meeting to provide support”. As well as potential solutions provided by Australia, the role of other organizations such as IUCN, WWF, Pew and the Manta Trust in providing technical assistance was presented.
Threats are often more severely felt on isolated and vulnerable island nations. Invasive alien species are the main driver of extinction in the Pacific Islands, affecting species, ecosystems, food security, health and livelihoods of people. “In an era of mass transportation and global connectivity, the Pacific is especially vulnerable to invasive species, which are almost impossible to get rid of – we must focus on realistic management plans to try to control them, but perhaps more importantly on biosecurity to prevent their establishment in new areas”, said Professor Randy Thaman of USP.
A case study of threats in the Solomon Islands was presented by Ecological Solutions Solomon Islands, highlighting the great threats to biodiversity due to logging and mining. David Boseto who has been working in Choiseul Province, stated: “Logging activities above the Kolobangara River and surrounding forests threaten biodiversity and access to clean streams, silting rivers and streams, reducing water ways, and threatening organisms that depend on clean water such as species of frogs like Discodeles guppyi, and species of freshwater gobies”. Whilst the Solomon Islands Government, like other regional governments, does have national policies and legislation to deal with such negative activities, including a code of practice for logging, the reality of implementation and enforcement on the ground is often challenging.
The Pacific Islands Species Forum was organized by IUCN in partnership with the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation, IUCN's Species Survival Commission and hosted by the University of the South Pacific. The CITES sessions were additionally organized by the CITES Secretariat and SPREP.
For more information, contact Helen Pippard, Species Officer at IUCN Oceania Regional Office, [email protected]