The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P) is leading the way to identify Important Marine Mammal Areas (I.M.M.As) to promote the conservation of such important species.
At their Vailima-headquarters on Monday, S.P.R.E.P opened the Pacific Islands Important Marine Mammal Areas Workshop.
The workshop is the second in a global series of workshops convened by the Marine Mammal Task Force of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (I.U.C.N)
Funded by Germany, the participants include some of the world’s most distinguished marine mammal scientists, as well as a number of Pacific islands researchers.
The Director General of S.P.R.E.P, Leota Kosi Latu, highlighted the importance of mammals such as whales.
“They can provide us with vital information about the state of our marine environment,” he said. “What happens to whales will also happen to our people, who rely heavily on the oceans and their resources.”
“In order to conserve whales, we need to look after our oceans and in doing that, we will also provide better prospects for future generations of Pacific Islanders.”
Leota said the training is not only an important part of S.P.R.E.P’s work, but it is an opportunity for stakeholders to come together to discuss the importance of marine mammals to the Pacific region.
Michael Donoghue, S.P.R.E.P’s Threatened and Migratory Species Adviser, said the training at Vailima is part of a global movement.
“We all know that there are places in the Pacific Islands where there are very important mammal breeding areas for whales and other species,” he said.
“We know that there are very important areas for dugong, which is another type of important mammal which is critically endangered.”
“There are only six countries in the Pacific Islands that have the dugong and in all of them, their populations are low so knowing the areas where we need to pay special attention and really look after these animals so they’re for our future generations, it’s really important because marine mammals have been part of the Pacific cultures for centuries.”
“Hopefully this workshop will help make sure that it stays that way.”
The training is part of the build up to a major conference about Whales in a Changing Ocean in Tonga next week.
“This workshop will bring in some new information for that conference in Tonga and we hope from that conference, we’ll able to set a ten year programme for the protection of Marine mammals and special whales throughout the region,” Mr. Donoghue said.