Islands shrink as questions remain unanswered

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Climate and Ocean Health Manager for the Conservation International Pacific: Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson.

Climate and Ocean Health Manager for the Conservation International Pacific: Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson.

The issue of oceans and climate change are intrinsically linked when it comes to islands. 

This is according to the Climate and Ocean Health Manager for Conservation International Pacific, Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson. 

Lagipoiva said the sea-level rise has been predicted to cause widespread erosion and inundation of low-lying atolls in the central Pacific and Samoa is not excluded. 

Lagipoiva points out that the online journal environmental research letters reveals the use of time series aerial and satellite imagery from 1947 to 2014 of 33 islands. 

This satellite imagery has identified there are five vegetated reef islands that have vanished over this time period and a further six islands experiencing severe shoreline recession.  

She poses these questions on the issue; questions that have been asked before. 

“What happens to islands when they disappear and the people are forced to relocate. 

“What is their legal, citizenship status? 

“Do their governments, language and identities survive? 

“Do they maintain membership to the United Nations, even though they have no land? 

And do they still own and control resources such as fisheries and mineral rights to the surrounding seas?”  

Lagipoiva, says the international conventions in place have yet to fully address the issue of the changing national jurisdictions of islands which stand to lose land as a result of sea level rise, a direct impact of climate change. 

“This issue touches at the core of islands rights to Exclusive Economic Zones and resources within those areas. 

“Small Island Developing States have called for the international community to recognize what islands stand to lose as a result of rising sea levels and changing boundaries from land loss.” 

Furthermore, Lagipoiva noted “the Pacific has been vocal in this area as it is essentially a security issue for some islands which include Tuvalu who have continuously requested assistance in ensuring that their culture, identity and rights to resources within their national jurisdictions are maintained in the eventuality that they lose their land.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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