Ocean Action Hub

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Breakthrough as New Caledonia votes to protect coral reef

15 Aug 2018 - The Pacific Island is home to one of the world’s most pristine coral reefs, boasting more than 9,300 marine species

15 Aug 2018 - The Pacific Island is home to one of the world’s most pristine coral reefs, boasting more than 9,300 marine species

New Caledonia has agreed to tougher protections around a huge swathe of some of the world’s last near-pristine coral reefs, in a move conservationists hailed as a major breakthrough.

The Pacific nation, a French overseas territory, is home to a rich array of wildlife including 2.5 million seabirds and more than 9,300 marine species such as dugongs and nesting green sea turtles, many of which thrive in and around remote zones off the island nation’s coast.

The archipelago boasts some of the world’s healthiest reefs, including Astrolabe, Petrie, Chesterfield and Bellona, which are considered exceptional examples of coral ecosystems.

After years of work, the New Caledonia government on Tuesday voted to set up marine protected areas (MPAs) surrounding the reefs, and to strengthen an existing one around Entrecasteaux, which is already a Unesco world heritage site.

The move will see 28,000 square kilometres (10,810 square miles) of waters safeguarded from commercial and industrial fishing and other exploitation, helping conserve habitats and allow marine life to feed and reproduce undisturbed.

Tourist activity around the reefs is also set to be more rigorously controlled.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/14/breakthrough-as-new-caledonia-votes-to-protect-coral-reef?CMP=share_btn_tw

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Winner of 2019 Stop Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing award announced

25 Feb 2019 – UNDP/GEF partner the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) was awarded the top prize in Bangkok for fighting IUU in the world's largest tuna fishery.

25 Feb 2019 – UNDP/GEF partner the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) was awarded the top prize in Bangkok for fighting IUU in the world's largest tuna fishery.

“This achievement recognises FFA’s work in Monitoring, Control and Surveillance initiatives to deter IUU fishing in the Pacific. Well done to the team at FFA, past and present, and all of our FFA member countries. And the award is particularly timely given FFA has just kicked off our 40th anniversary celebrations,” said FFA Director General, Dr Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen

“This award is a reflection of the work we do to protect the rights of FFA members over the tuna within our Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), and the foundation of the economic and social benefits that flow from that. We have to ensure that there is long term sustainability of oceanic fish stocks to secure our peoples’ future livelihoods and regional food security.”

A panel of judges used a range of key criteria including demonstrated success and innovation in reducing IUU, the feasibility and cost of IUU mitigation activities, the potential for replication and approaches to education and capacity building.

“In preparing our submission for the award, the FFA Secretariat felt we were well able to demonstrate high level performance against all the criteria” said Dr Tupou-Roosen. “Our integrated approaches to combatting IUU are coordinated through the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre at FFA and encapsulated in our Regional Fisheries Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Strategy.” 

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.ffa.int/node/2217

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Conservation Effort to Preserve Life Below Water in Fiji

18 Oct 2018 - My Fiji Shark, a new initiative to support marine ecotourism, conservation and SDG 14 was launched today by UNDP and others.

18 Oct 2018 - Suva, Fiji – A new initiative designed to support marine ecotourism and the Sustainable Development Goal 14 was launched today, marking a new era in marine conservation. The South Pacific Tourism Organisation in partnership with Beqa Adventure Divers (BAD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with support from the Australian Government proudly launched the My Fiji Shark Initiative in Suva this morning. 

With coastal pollution, overfishing and population growth, the oceans and the marine ecosystem are witnessing profound damage making the SDG 14 crucial for Fiji. There is optimism amongst scientists that new approaches to sustainable management and marine conservation can be found if traditional knowledge is complemented by science and technology. Hence, the My Fiji Shark Initiative is a new innovative model to support the partners’ efforts to realize this and raise the profile of marine conservation in the region.

“This initiative is a tool to mobilise resources through tourism to implement the SDG 14 ‘Life Below Water’ and support the ‘Blue Pacific’ identity as a driver for sustainable development in the region,” said Christopher Cocker, SPTO Chief Executive Officer.

“Our partnership is a demonstration of public-private sector engagement in the conservation of our marine resources.” Beqa Adventure Divers is a credible business with research work spanning over a decade to support the Shark Reef Marine Reserve.

“I recall the former President Toribiong of Palau saying, ‘If you look at the sharks in the ocean, they are the kings of sea, if you get the King you get the Kingdom’ when you adopt a shark, you have earned your place in the Fiji Shark Kingdom,” said Cocker.

The initiative is working closely with the Shark Reef Marine Reserve managed by Beqa Adventure Divers, a local shark research, conservation and ecotourism operator, to raise the profile of marine conservation in the region through a shark adoption program.

UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director and Head of Pacific Regional Policy and Programme, Bakhodir Burkhanov said, “Businesses globally have a big role to play in achieving the SDGs. Indeed, it will not succeed without private sector engagement and contributions. This initiative is all the more important as it targets SDG financing from – and with – the private sector.”

“'My Fiji Shark’ supports work towards achieving the SDG 14 on Life Below Water, specifically linked to marine ecotourism and involving an ‘Adopt a Shark’ campaign. It is symbolic that our first SDG private sector financing model and cause-related marketing campaign are about oceans and marine species.”

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Report Finds Poor Outlook for Pacific Coral Reefs

5 Oct 2018 - UN Environment/SPREP report concludes that “the outlook is poor” for Pacific coral reefs due to human-induced threats and climate change.

5 Oct 2018 - According to the report, coral reefs in the Pacific remain “less stressed” compared to reefs elsewhere, with strong potential for coral, fish and invertebrate populations to recover following damaging events.

However, the report concludes that while many Pacific reefs appear healthy and resilient now, “the outlook is poor” over the longer term as a result of increasing human-induced threats and global climate change.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) launched a report titled, ‘Status and Trends of Coral Reefs for the Pacific,’ which highlights the role of the region’s coral reefs in the life and culture of eight million Pacific islanders. The report will contribute to reporting for the SDGs and is a response to the priorities identified in the SAMOA Pathway and Pacific Oceanscape Framework.

The report is the culmination of a two-year process initiated at the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) Pacific Workshop, which took place in 2016. The preparation of regional periodic coral reef assessments is the main substantive activity of the GCRMN. UNEP and SPREP developed the report in partnership with the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) and the Centre for Island Research and Environmental Observatory (CRIOBE), with financial support from the Governments of France, Sweden and the US. The report is also expected to inform the mid-term review of the SAMOA Pathway and development of the Pacific Coral Reef Action Plan 2020-2030, which SPREP coordinates.

The report analyzes long-term trends in coral reef health using primary data, including 20,000 surveys collected for 129 islands that cover nearly three decades. Although overall coral cover in the Pacific is relatively stable in comparison with other world regions, the report finds a statistically significant decline in coral cover across the Pacific reefs. In addition, coral reefs in the Pacific remain “less stressed” compared to reefs elsewhere, with strong potential for coral, fish and invertebrate populations to recover following damaging events. However, the report concludes that while many Pacific reefs appear healthy and resilient now, “the outlook is poor” over the longer term as a result of increasing human-induced threats and global climate change.

CONTINE READING ONLINE HERE: http://sdg.iisd.org/news/report-finds-poor-outlook-for-pacific-coral-reefs/

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At UN, Pacific leaders warn climate change poses security threat to their countries and marine resources
27 Sept 2018 - Ensuring sustainable development and surmounting the ‘devastating impacts’ of climate change were on the top of the agenda at the UN General Assembly.

27 Sept 2018 - Ensuring sustainable development and surmounting the ‘devastating impacts’ of climate change were on the top of the agenda at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, where King Tupou VI of Tonga was joined by a host of other Pacific Island leaders calling for action on what they saw as “the defining issue of our time”.

Ensuring Sustainable development and surmounting the ‘devastating impacts’ of climate change were on the top of the agenda at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, where King Tupou VI of Tonga was joined by a host of other Pacific Island leaders calling for action on what they saw as “the defining issue of our time”.

“In contributing towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its landmark Goals (SDGs), including the internationally agreed blueprint for the sustainable development of small island developing States (SIDS), the SAMOA Pathway, Tonga has made both accords an integral part of its national planning processes,” he said on Wednesday.

He emphasized the importance of the UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, which he pointed out will review the SAMOA Pathway in 2019.

“Climate change continues to pose significant security threats to us as island States,” he said, noting with concern “the devastating impacts of climate change on our marine environment.”

He welcomed the establishment at the initiation of German and Nauru of the Group of Friends on Climate and Security “to further highlight the nexus between the threats of climate change with threats to international peace and security.”

He stressed that despite the effects of sea level rise, Tonga’s territorial boundaries, established under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, should remain unchanged.

“Our Sovereignty must not be compromised by climate change and we welcome the work of the International Law Commission on this critically important and timely issue for consideration of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly,” he said, referring to the Assembly’s standing body that deals with legal issues.

He was looking forward to the 24th Session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December to address the adverse impacts of climate change and the need for innovation in adaptation for small island developing States.

“Finally,” he said, “sustainable development, whether it be, [among others], through good health and well-being, climate action, life below water, or affordable and clean energy, can only be realized through international peace and security.”

“We continue to look to the Security Council to protect the innocent from threats to international peace and security in whatever form, be they traditional threats such as armed conflict, or newer threats like climate change, to ensure no one is left behind,” concluded King Tupou VI.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/09/1020811

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Pacific agrees on plan to stop waste ending up in the ocean

28 Aug 2018 - Consensus has been reached on a strategic plan for managing pollution in the region.

28 Aug 2018 - A waste specialist at the Pacific's environment agency SPREP says consensus has been reached on a strategic plan for managing pollution in the region.

According to Earth Day about 8 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean every year.

Representatives for Pacific countries, civil society, academia and industry met in Fiji last week for the 'Clean Pacific Roundtable'.

SPREP's Vicki Hall said all stakeholders agreed to work in partnership to help solve the problem of land-based waste ending up in the ocean.

"So for example we have a Moana Taka partnership with Swire Transport," she said.

"So they're actually helping us deliver the low value waste in the countries to Australia or New Zealand so that that waste can be recycled."

Ms Hall said stopping waste from entering the ocean was crucial to saving the marine environment.

There are five massive patches of plastic in oceans around the world. The Pacific garbage patch which lies between California and Hawaii is the size of the state of Texas.

Scientists predict that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the world's oceans will outweigh the amount of fish.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/365096/pacific-agre...

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Eight islands in the Pacific Ocean have disappeared completely due to rising seas

11 Sep 2017 - The low-lying Micronesia and the Solomon islands have fallen victim to climate change as sea levels continue to climb at an average of three millimetres every year.

11 Sep 2017 - The low-lying Micronesia and the Solomon islands have fallen victim to climate change as sea levels continue to climb at an average of three millimetres every year.

Due to a natural trade wind cycle, sea levels rise faster in the western Pacific meaning – as much as 12 millimetres since the 1990s.

Patrick Nunn, of the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, has found that islands are continuing to disappear.

After conducting surveys on the coast, questioned locals and studied satellite imagery, Nunn’s team found that several low-lying islands have been considerably swallowed or even disappeared entirely.

Locals told researchers that two islands, Kepidau en Pehleng and Nahlapenlohd are now completely submerged.

And aerial images of the area show that another six islands, Laiap, Nahtik and the Ros island chains disappeared between 2007 and 2014.

Nunn warns that the islands, which were around 100 square metres in size, could hold a stark warning for other low-lying islands and nations.

The research was published in the 2017 edition of the Journal of Coastal Conservation.

Another study conducted by Simon Albert, of the University of Queensland in Australia, in 2016 had similar findings.

Albert and his team discovered that five of the Solomon Islands had been lost since the mid-20th century.

Following the research, he said: ‘These are the first places on Earth to experience really high rates of sea level rise, so they give great insights into what can happen.’

CONTINUE READING: http://metro.co.uk/2017/09/10/eight-islands-in-the-pacific-ocean-have-di...

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Indian Ocean Conference 2017

The Indian Ocean is the world’s third largest body of water, covering about one fifth of the world's total ocean area.

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) cuts across a vast span of territory that directly affects both the global economy and some 32 nations in the region. The countries in the IOR are for the most part developing and middle income countries, with varying levels of development, stability and security. The level of political stability, the quality of governance, demographic pressures, ethnic and sectarian tensions, and the pace of economic growth create a different mix of opportunity and risk in each state. The IOR is also one of the most complex regions in the world in human terms. It reposes significant endowments of strategic natural resources, tremendous ecological and human diversity, and resplendent cultural and civilisational traditions, making it arguably a pivotal harbinger to regional and global peace, progress and stability. Equally, it is a potential lodestar, offering a new template for maritime concert, cooperation and management, and societally-beneficent harness, of the vast blue economy. Economic development can pave the way for the countries in the IOR to eradicate poverty. Peace remains a vital condition for Progress and Economic Development, which in turn can lead to Prosperity for all in the region.

What can the countries of the IOR do to achieve Peace, Progress and Prosperity? Delegates from all the countries of the IOR and other concerned nations have been invited to present their views in the Indian Ocean Conference 2017 (IOC 2017), being organised by India Foundation with its partners in Colombo on 31st August – 2nd September 2017.

To view the conference brochure, click here. 

For more information, visit: http://www.indiafoundation.in/indian-ocean-conference-2017/

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Tuna key to sustainable development of small island states

28 Apr 2017 - The fate of the world’s marine life today - including the threatened bluefin tuna - is in all our hands

28 Apr 2017 - Pacific Islanders have been catching tuna since the earliest days of settlement some 3,000 years ago. For most of recorded history, the fish were harvested using traditional techniques. But the arrival of foreign vessels in the 1950s opened up the fishery to industrial-scale technology and global markets, and for the first time tested its ecological limits.

Today, nearly two-thirds of the tuna found in restaurants and supermarkets around the world comes from the Pacific Ocean. So it should come as no surprise that the Pacific Small Island Developing States, a group of 12 island nations from the region, led the campaign for the United Nations to designate a World Tuna Day, which will be celebrated for the first time on May 2.

To be sure, it is hard to overstate the fish's importance to Pacific islands. Not only is it their primary protein source, the revenue it raises underpins the region's entire economy. It has been said that tuna is to the Pacific what oil is to the Middle East.

Few countries have done more to promote tuna conservation than ours. For instance, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), a management arrangement between nine Pacific island states and distant water fleets, led to the creation of the world’s largest sustainable purse seine tuna fishery. It employs strict fishing regulations, such as limits on the days fishing vessels are allowed to spend at sea, minimum net-size regulations, 100 percent observer coverage, limitations on the use of Fish Aggregator Devices (FADs), and stiff penalties for targeting sharks, turtles, and seabirds.

These rules have important environmental objectives, of course, but they also led to a nearly four-fold increase in the fishery’s revenues between 2010 and 2014.

Still, the highly migratory tuna faces a host of challenges beyond the reach of management, particularly illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

A recent report by the Forum Fisheries Agency, which monitors fishing activities in the region, found the IUU haul costs Pacific island states upwards $616 million a year in lost revenue. Moreover, pirate fishing undermines the fishery's long-term productivity.

Of the five major Pacific tuna varieties - bluefin, skipjack, albacore, yellowfin, and bigeye - the bluefin is by far the most depleted. The latest stock assessment indicates that its numbers are less than 3 percent of its original population. Scientists warn that without draconian conservation efforts, it may vanish entirely.

The other tunas are doing better, particularly skipjack (the target of the PNA's pure seine fishery). But IUU fishing takes a toll on them all and the loss of coastal ecosystems, particularly coral reefs, is increasingly damaging essential tuna habitat.

What’s more, warming ocean temperatures and acidification due to carbon dioxide emissions is altering migration patterns and fundamentally eroding the larger marine ecosystem they depend on.

In response to these unprecedented challenges, Pacific island states are calling for improvements to tuna management.

First, the PNA demonstrates that giving local communities an economic stake in fisheries leads to better conservation and greater economic value. Other island nations should be empowered to manage their own marine resources, which in many cases offer the best opportunity for development. At the same time, traditional and artisanal fishers, who have a relatively small impact on the fishery, should be allowed access to a fair share of the catch.

Second, economic subsidies that promote overfishing should end. Finally, addressing IUU fishing will demand greater public and private partnerships from the dock to the supermarket. Requiring tuna exports to be certified as to where and how they were caught will go a long way toward weakening demand for illegal fish.

Early next month, the United Nations will host the first ever Oceans Conference. It will call on countries to address a host of urgent threats to marine systems, such as climate change, ocean acidification, and pollution. As with the tuna, the fate of the world’s marine life today, is in all our hands.

Ambassador Marlene Moses is the permanent representative to the United Nations for the Republic of Nauru and chairs the Pacific Small Island Developing States.

CONTINUE READING: http://news.trust.org/item/20170428122154-fu9zj/?source=gep

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Great Barrier Reef tourism: caught between commerce and conservation alarm

17 Apr 2017 - More people than ever are coming to see the reef and those who make a living showing it off want the world to know it’s still a natural wonder. But they worry about its future, and that of their 64,000-strong industry.

17 Apr 2017 - In the dark clouds gathering over the future of the Great Barrier Reef, there has been a small silver lining for the people who make their living showcasing the natural wonder.

When the reef was rocked by an unprecedented second mass bleaching event in the space of a year, the coral hardest-hit by heat stress lay mostly in the tourist-heavy latitudes between Cairns and Townsville.

But despite last year’s damage compounded by new cases dotted across 800 reefs in a 1,500km stretch, not a single reef tourism operator has been forced to seek out new ground to take visitors.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which licenses operators to visit designated reef sites, confirmed it has received one request to change a permit. And that was not because of bleaching but Cyclone Debbie further south, which damaged that other hub of reef tourism, the Whitsundays after it escaped the bleaching.

By an accident of geography, the tourist operators say, the most wondrous sites for public viewing, which tend to fall on the edge of the continental shelf near cooler, deeper waters, are the ones also spared the worst damage from bleaching.

For now at least.

“Look, if we get another year of this, we’ll be in an absolute world of hurt and I know that,” Col McKenzie, chief executive of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators says.

Just 7% of the reef is set aside for tourism. But McKenzie says he is frustrated that “the story being put out there that there’s been severe bleaching throughout the whole area: it’s just not true”.

Aerial surveys released by scientists on 10 April showed back-to-back bleaching had occurred in a range along two-thirds of the world’s largest living structure. It indicated bleaching levels of more than 60% of coral this time were concentrated in reefs between Port Douglas and Townsville. It was the fourth mass bleaching to hit the reef in recorded history – all since 1998 – and coral scientists are alarmed the increasing regularity of these events gives stressed coral precious little chance to recover.

After last year’s bleaching, which killed off 22% of coral mainly in the isolated northern section of the reef, US magazine Outside went so far as to run an obituary on the reef: “25 million BC - 2016”.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/apr/17/great-barrier-reef-t...