The Pacific islands voice was heard among those of ministers, ambassadors and heads of international organisations from across the world during a High Level Panel at the Twelfth Conference of the Parties of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (C.M.S C.O.P12).
Representing the Pacific island region, Leota Kosi Latu, the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P) took part in the panel that discussed how implementing the C.M.S can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Facilitated by Rico Hizon, the presenter of the Asia Business Report, BBC, a range of questions were posed to the high level panel, prompting the discussion that linked the C.M.S with the S.D.G’s. One question asked how to enhance the opportunities for sustainable wildlife-tourism?
“For our Pacific region, sharks are more valuable to our communities alive, than dead. Whales are more valuable to our Pacific communities alive, than dead. Eco-tourism enhances the value of these migratory species, species which already is of cultural and spiritual value for many Pacific island communities,” said Leota.
“Now the opportunities and benefits for sustaining livelihoods are very clear for our communities, it’s them we must remember when it comes to conservation as they are the custodians of our resources and biodiversity.”
The lifetime value of a live reef shark to the tourism industry in Palau has been estimated at US$1.9 Million, this is in comparison the value of a reef shark carcass at about US$108. Whale watching has also become a multi-million dollar industry in the Pacific islands.
The High Level Panel were also asked if there is a deficit in the thinking between conservation of species and sustainable development, and, if so, how can we address it?
“In my view the deficit is not the lack of understanding of the link between conservation and sustainable development – but rather it is more the lack of effective implementation. Let’s start at our end game. What is the success we want to define when it comes to conservation of biodiversity? Once we know that we can work backwards to achieving it,” said Leota.
“We do know part of achieving this will require policies and legislation, but also a coherence between the global, regional and national levels. There are a number of international frameworks and commitments in place, such as the SGD’s, Aichi targets and the SAMOA Pathway, but we need to see how we are translating that at the national level.”
The High Level Panel of over 20 distinguished guests included Parliamentary State Secretary Schwarzelühr-Sutter from the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, the Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora John Scanlon and Dr Bradnee Chambers Executive Secretary of the CMS Secretariat.
Taking place on Sunday 23 October, 2017 before the opening of the CMS COP12, the High Level Panel saw encouragement for more countries to sign on to the CMS and helped set the scene of the week’s discussions to come.
The CMS COP12 is held from 23 to 28 October, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. The Pacific islands is part of the Oceania Region which consists of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Palau, Philippines and Samoa.