Environment Ministers of five Pacific Island countries – Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa and Vanuatu – have committed to increase efforts to conserve mangroves, by signing the Pacific Mangroves Charter at a side event of the 3rd United Nations International Conference on Small Islands Developing States (SIDS).
The Pacific Islands contain over 70% of the world’s mangrove species, despite containing only 3.8% of the global mangrove area. Each island group has a unique mangrove community structure, as genetic isolation has allowed endemic mangrove species to evolve.
Mangrove ecosystems continue to provide significant social, economic and cultural benefits for Pacific Island communities but development pressures are allowing for unsustainable clearing and degradation. This is a similar story to what is happening globally, with mangroves one of the most critically threatened ecosystems in the world – in some countries 50% to 80% of mangroves have been cleared in the last 20 years.
The Pacific Mangroves Charter collaborates effort between countries to conserve mangroves across the Pacific Islands region. It is the first agreement of its kind in the region, and is a formal acknowledgement from the Ministers of Environment that mangroves are key coastal ecosystems that need to be conserved – an important first step.
“The Pacific Mangroves Charter is a collective declaration by the leaders of the Pacific Island countries and territories with mangroves forests to recognize the importance of mangroves in building our resilience to climate change,” says Hon. Faamoetauloa Lealaiauloto Taito Dr Fa’ale Tumaalii, Samoa’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.
“The Charter calls for protection and conservation of this critical ecosystem that plays such an important role in the wellbeing and livelihoods of Pacific Island communities,” adds Hon. Dr Tumaalii, who is the leading Champion of the Pacific Mangroves Charter.
The document was developed by the Pacific Mangroves Initiative, which is a partnership-based initiative co-chaired by IUCN and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and includes WWF, University of the South Pacific, the UN Development Programme and six Pacific Island countries. The principal donors of the Pacific Mangroves Initiative are the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) and USAID.
Speaking on behalf of the German Government, Ms Rita Schwarzeleuhrt-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary at BMUB, said her Government through its programme was happy to support the Pacific Mangroves Charter.
“Mangrove protection is a key instrument of sustainable protection and my government is committed to supporting this initiative into the future,” says Ms Schwarzeleuhrt-Sutter.
IUCN Oceania Regional Director, Mr Taholo Kami, commended the leadership of the Samoa Government in this new move to protect what he believes is an entrenched resource of Pacific Island culture.
“Mangrove forests are important for our fisheries, as storm surge protection barriers, sources of hardwood timber, firewood, tapa dyes and as efficient carbon sinks. No wonder mangroves are entrenched into our island culture… We are seeing the pilot of what we hope will become a global SIDS partnership on the protection of mangroves. There are 10 countries in the Pacific that have mangrove forests and the second phase of this would be of course to get the rest of the countries to sign up to the Pacific Mangroves Charter,” says Mr Kami.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa, Mr Suluimalo Amataga Penaia, oversaw the signing of the Pacific Mangroves Charter by Hon. Faamoetauloa Lealaiauloto Taito Dr. Faale Tumaalii of the Government of Samoa, Hon. James Bule of the Government of Vanuatu, Hon. Marion Henry of the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia, Hon. Tony De Brum of the Government of the Marshall Islands, and Hon. Umiich Sengebau of the Government of Palau.