Samoa signs Whale declaration

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A COMMITMENT TO PROTECT WHALES: Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, among the leaders at the Whale Conference in Tonga.

A COMMITMENT TO PROTECT WHALES: Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, among the leaders at the Whale Conference in Tonga.

Samoa has signed the Pacific Islands Year of the Whale Declaration.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E), Fiame Naomi Mata’afa was among leaders of 11 countries who signed the Declaration during the Whales in a Changing Ocean Conference in Tonga.

The declaration calls for strengthened whale conservation across the Pacific region.

Samoa was joined by Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu sign on to the declaration. The full text of the declaration reads:

We, the undersigned Ministers and government officials from Pacific Islands and Territories gathered at the Whales in a Changing Ocean conference held in Nuku’alofa, Kingdom of Tonga, 4-6 April 2017, to celebrate the Year of the Whale in the Pacific Islands and Territories:

CONSCIOUS of the deep cultural relationship, including traditional knowledge, between whales and Pacific peoples;

RECALLING that many species of large whales that overwinter in Pacific islands breeding grounds were reduced to near-extinction by industrial whaling fleets in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries;

AWARE that some populations of these species are now recovering in numbers, thanks to the global moratorium on commercial whaling imposed and maintained by the International Whaling Commission;

GRATEFUL that many Pacific island countries and territories have established legislation, whale sanctuaries, and other commitments which add to the regional protection of whales;

NOTING that for many Pacific island countries and territories, the presence of whales in their waters is an important cultural resource, and that well-managed whale-watching activities can promote sustainable economic benefits;

AWARE also that recovering populations of whales in the Pacific island countries and territories are now at risk from an emerging range of new threats, including climate change, entanglement in marine debris, by-catch in fishing operations, noise and pollution;

ENDORSING the Year of the Whale theme that whales are living sentinels that reflect and contribute to the health of our oceans;

GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGING the generous hospitality of the Government of Tonga and the excellent arrangements provided to host the Whales in a Changing Ocean conference;

ACKNOWLEDGING the contributions of regional and international agencies, IGOs, NGOs, private sector and others to promote the recovery of whale populations;

NOW THEREFORE

RECOGNISE that lost and abandoned fishing gear is one of the most harmful forms of marine debris for whales, and that accelerated action to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution is needed;

COMMEND SPREP’s commitment to the production of a Whale and Dolphin Action Plan to provide a framework for conservation activities in the Pacific islands region 2018-2023;

REQUEST the experts at the Whales in a Changing Ocean conference to work with SPREP to develop a draft Whale and Dolphin Action Plan for their review and endorsement at the SPREP Annual Meeting in September 2017;

REQUEST SPREP to engage with Pacific islands and territories and others to identify key capacity development needs for the conservation of whales, for consideration in the 2018-2023 Whale and Dolphin Action Plan;

COMMIT our governments to collaborations with other Pacific islands and territories to provide a secure future for whales in the Pacific islands region;

WELCOME the engagement and contribution of all stakeholders in this endeavour, including IGOs, NGOs, academia, the private sector, civil society and local communities;

WELCOME new partnerships including multilateral organisations, to implement voluntary commitments by Pacific islands and territories to meet the aspirations of this Declaration.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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