Story | 19 Jun, 2018

Protecting our oceans - now and for future generations

Pacific representatives met in Apia, Samoa last week to identify the challenges and opportunities to progress and effectively manage Protected Areas in the region. To contribute to these efforts, the Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Management in Pacific Island Countries (MACBIO) project (jointly implemented by GIZ, IUCN and SPREP) launched at the Pacific Island Round Table for Nature Conservation (PIRT) session three significant reports that together offer the building blocks for delivering national networks for an ecologically representative system of Marine Protected Areas in the South West Pacific.  

The MACBIO Project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety’s (BMU’s) International Climate Initiative (IKI). It is assisting the countries of Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu to strengthen their capacities and processes in marine and coastal planning and management. These new publications and other outputs from the MACBIO project are also made available to all Pacific island countries and territories.

The first report Draft Marine Bioregions of the Southwest Pacific, launched by Mr Kosi Latu, Director General, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) presents, for the first time, the distribution and descriptions of marine bioregions across the Southwest Pacific. Mapping marine bioregions enables good science-based marine area planning at national and regional scales. ‘The Pacific Ocean covers 30 percent of the Earth’s surface. Within this vast oceanscape lie many Pacific Island nations with large ocean estates. The Ocean provides Pacific people with a wealth of ecosystem services, including coastal protection from storms, food security, local livelihood, carbon storage and importantly climate regulation’, said Mr Latu. ‘The report provides Pacific Island countries with a tool to protect these values now and for future generations. The marine bioregions depicted provide an ecosystem-based regionalisation that can be used as the basis for identifying, nationally, ecologically representative networks of marine protected areas,’ Mr Latu added

The report was received by, Ms Agnetha Vave-Karamui, from the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology. ‘To build on the technical work of this report, in-country experts in the Solomon Islands have reviewed and finalised Bioregions for use in marine spatial planning and building an ecologically representative network of MPAs’, said Ms Vave-Karamui.

The second report, The Value of Offshore Marine Protected Areas for Open Ocean Habitats and Species, launched by Mr Mason Smith, Regional Director, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Oceania Regional Office, showcases the value of offshore marine protected areas to secure a healthy ocean. ‘The Pacific Ocean underpins the formal and informal economy of most island nations. For Pacific Islanders, many depend on the ocean for their survival’, said Mr Smith. ‘However, the ocean is under considerable pressure from competing uses, including industrial offshore fisheries, marine tourism, coastal mining, shipping, and waste disposal and discharge’.

As leaders of today, we must ensure that tomorrow’s children have a healthy ocean. We already know the value of marine protected areas in our coastal environments and this report clearly shows that offshore MPAs are one of the best conservation tools we have to protect our offshore habitats,’ added Mr Smith.

The report was accepted by the Chair of Fiji’s Protected Area Committee, Ms. Susana Waqainabete-Tuisese who notes that ‘It is important for all of us to understand the value of offshore ecosystems, especially the interconnectedness between healthy offshore ecosystems and healthy inshore ecosystems. Protecting our offshore habitats and ecosystems is essential to delivering biodiversity conservation, food security and sustainable livelihoods in the Pacific.’

The third report, Biophysical Design Principles for Offshore Networks of No-take Marine Protected Areas also launched by Mr Smith, provides clear and systematic guidance for decision-makers on the placement and size of marine protected areas in offshore environments. ‘Applying these biophysical design principles will help ensure the ecological effectiveness of offshore networks of marine protected areas. In turn, building the resilience of our ocean secures the social, cultural and economic values we derive from them’.

The better we can manage our ocean now, the more likely it can withstand the pressures in
the future
’, concluded Mr Smith.

The Design Principles report was accepted by Ms. Ta'hirih F.Hokafonu, Principal Assistant Secretary, Department of Environment, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MEIDECC) of the Kingdom of Tonga. ‘The Design Principles were presented at the Government’s last Ocean 7 meeting in Tonga. Guidelines that help determine where to locate different ocean management areas, including marine protected areas, is essential to delivering a successful marine spatial plan for Tonga’, said Ms F.Hokafonu.

The event was jointly organised by the Pacific Island Roundtable for Nature Conservation (PIRT) and the Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Management in Pacific Island Countries (MACBIO) Project. The MACBIO Project is being implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) with technical support from the Oceania Regional Office of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and in close collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP).