As part of the World Oceans Day, a challenge has been made, calling upon people to be part of the Wave for Change for ocean conservation through committing to activities to protect our ocean.
The Pacific islands region comprises 98% water and 2% land; it covers 10% of the global ocean containing over 33,000 different islands making the ocean one of the most valuable resources for Pacific islanders.
More than any other peoples on the planet, Pacific islanders know that we live on an ocean planet.
“Our ocean plays a crucial role for us all, it generates our oxygen, helps feed us, is the basis of many Pacific island traditions and customs and has helped provide the foundation for the way of life for many coastal island communities,” said Warren Lee Long, the Coastal and Marine Adviser of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.).
“Our ocean, along with the marine life it sustains, faces many threats and challenges – we all need to come together and commit to better practices to help ensure we bring about a healthy ocean which will lead to a healthy planet.”
S.P.R.E.P. along with partners are working together under the regional Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape, which contains six strategic priorities to help protect, manage, maintain and sustain the cultural and natural integrity of the ocean.
Under this collaborative framework, many actions are taking place by different partners to address the range of different threats to our oceans which include climate change and ocean acidification, marine pollution and overfishing.
One of these actions includes the New Zealand Pacific Partnership on Ocean Acidification project, which is supported by the Government of New Zealand and the Principality of Monaco.
This project is led by S.P.R.E.P. in partnership with the Pacific Community and the University of the South Pacific, and will see activities happen in four pilot projects to help strengthen the resilience of coastal communities to the impacts of ocean acidification.
”Ocean acidification and climate change pose a direct threat to Pacific island coral reefs and coastal ecosystems, which provide essential services such as food security, tourism, coastal protection, and cultural heritage,” said Dr. Tommy Moore, the Pacific Islands Global Ocean Observing System Officer and N.Z. P.P.O.A. project manager of S.P.R.E.P.
“We are working with local governments and communities to raise awareness of these issues and what actions they can take to increase the resilience of their coastal lagoon habitats now and for future generations.”
Work is also underway to help conserve an iconic marine species and promote ocean conservation through S.P.R.E.P.’s regional Protect Pacific Whales – Ocean Voyagers campaign. Many different actions are planned over the next two years to conserve and protect, as well as celebrate the Pacific Whales.
Currently underway is the S.P.R.E.P. Facebook Competition calling for entries of Whale photographs or art pieces, which will then be displayed on Facebook for voters to indicate their preference. The most popular entries will be awarded prizes sponsored by Digicel.
“We are really encouraged by the submissions we have received so far and would like to see many more,” said Nanette Woonton of the Communications and Outreach Unit at S.P.R.E.P.
“We are still accepting entries until 22 June, after that they’ll be displayed on our Facebook page for people to ‘like’, we’ve received some great submissions and are always keen to see more – it’s a great way to celebrate and commemorate our Pacific Whales!”
The Pacific has also taken steps to protect shark and ray species that are declining at an alarming rate due to commercial fishing. Mobula rays, thresher sharks and silky sharks have been proposed to be listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (C.I.T.E.S.) with global support by more than 50 countries.
The Pacific has also led the way in establishing shark sanctuaries, in particular, Palau and the Marshall Islands with more Pacific countries taking steps to help save these vulnerable species. The Fijian Fisheries Department has recently proposed to the Government a shark moratorium as well as developing national conservation measures to protect sharks and rays within their waters.
While work is taking place at the regional and national level, commitments to the Wave for Change for ocean conservation are also happening at the individual level. Through the different positive actions by people in commemoration of World Ocean Day to bring about a healthy ocean and healthy planet, we hope that these positive impacts will expand globally.