Recognize the Pacific’s valuable natural assets

05 June 2014 | News story

On World Environment Day, IUCN is calling on leaders in all sectors of Pacific countries to recognise the significant value of the Pacific in terms of big ocean spaces, food security and unique biodiversity and take significant action to protect, restore and maintain them.

Pacific Island States own natural resources that are an important source for many of the world’s fish, minerals and timber industries. In the face of climate change, it is beyond critical that our wetlands, coral reefs, forests and rivers get the recognition they deserve from all leaders in order to protect and keep these natural assets healthy – for the Pacific people and the rest of the world.

Despite the overwhelming recognition of human dependence on nature for our daily needs, we still cannot sustainably manage our actions towards extraction and consumption.

Climate change, the most serious development and environment challenge for the 21st century, is escalating the need to take significant action as it undermines food and freshwater supply and weakens flood regulation and shoreline protection – directly threatening people’s human rights and livelihoods.

Biodiversity loss still remains a global challenge with 64% of recorded extinctions on islands (including the Pacific). Proper management is at the root of any successful conservation action - declaring and designating protected areas can only fulfil their role in reducing biodiversity loss if they are effectively managed. Political commitment needs to be supported by sufficient capacity and long term financial mechanisms if we are to take significant steps to halt biodiversity loss.

The transition to a green economy needs to be part of this change. IUCN believes a green economy should be built on a stronger appreciation of the role of healthy ecosystems in supporting local livelihoods as well as providing investment opportunities for business.

Protecting our natural environment was never a new concept for the Pacific people. About 30,000 islands lie across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and 12% of this region is under protection, mostly community managed protected areas, showcasing the immense role of traditional knowledge in conservation.

Whilst more can be done, IUCN recognizes the progress being made towards the building of community resilience to climate change throughout the region. Local communities are realizing the need to protect their food sources – their fishing and harvesting grounds. Amongst these communities, are the people of Nasoata in Fiji, Safata District in Samoa and Maramasike Passage in Solomon Islands who have developed their co-management plans to safeguard their fishing grounds.

IUCN is also proud of the progress being made in the region to protect and restore critical ecosystems such as mangroves. Through activities such as IUCN’s Mangrove Ecosystems for Climate Change and Livelihoods Project, information on mangrove distribution, species types and coverage have been obtained for Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. These biodiversity surveys, mapping activities, carbon assessments, economic valuation and policy and legislation reviews have fed into the development of decision-making support tools for policy makers in all five countries including a National Mangrove Management Plan for Fiji.

IUCN joins its member organizations and partners in the Pacific in celebrating World Environment Day advocating the role of islands in addressing pressing global issues through ingenuity, innovation and the use of traditional knowledge.

The challenges facing the islands of the Pacific are challenges that confront us all. The UN Conference on Small Island Developing States, which will be held in September in Apia, Samoa, will focus on building partnerships for sustainable development and provides a good opportunity for Pacific Island leaders to commit to significant action to protect our ocean, our food supply and our island biodiversity.

Background information:

  • In April 2002, the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity committed themselves to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth.
  • World Environment Day is the United Nations’ main vehicle for promoting worldwide awareness and action for the environment. In support of the UN designation of 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), WED 2014 has adopted SIDS in the broader context of climate change as its theme. It aims to build momentum towards the Third International Conference on SIDS in September and encourage a sense of understanding in helping protect islands in the face of growing risks.

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

Salote Sauturaga-Rinakama, Communications Officer, IUCN Oceania Regional Office ph+6793319084, m+679 7437512, e salote.sauturaga@iucn.org