Mangrove policies under review for five island countries

28 January 2013 | Article

IUCN Oceania is reviewing existing policies and legislations relevant to the protection and management of mangroves in Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga as part of its efforts to help improve local mangrove management in these countries.

Mangroves are vital natural defence systems to climate change and are especially important for Pacific Island Countries (PICs) who face threats from sea level rise. However, for most PICs the laws and policies are inadequate and do not fully address the issues affecting this key ecosystem.

This time consuming but important review exercise began in 2011 and a year after the review is nearing completion.

"At the early stages of this review, we learnt that none of the five countries have national mangrove policies," says Ms Ruci Lumelume, Coastal Ecosystem Management Officer at IUCN Oceania. "Instead mangrove management and conservation are addressed partly in other existing environmental policies, legislation and documents for example in Fiji, the Environment Management Act and National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan."

The review of relevant legislation is timely for the countries, as most of them are presently engaged in the revision of legislation for the management of natural resources and are likely to welcome suggestions.

While governments are aware of the important role played by mangrove ecosystems, in general they have not reflected that in policy or regulation that is binding across the whole of government,” adds Ms Christine Trenorden, Environmental Law Coordinator at IUCN Oceania.

The desktop review for all five countries was completed in October 2012 and followed by in-country stakeholder consultations throughout November 2012. The final review document for each country is planned to be completed by June 2013 and submitted for approval from the respective governments.

"In the final review documents we will also present recommendations on how best to move forward in order to strengthen mangrove management in each country," says Ms Lumelume. "Already we have received positive feedback from governments of these countries on this exercise and we are optimistic that our recommendations will prompt further action on the ground."

The Fiji Government for instance, acting upon preliminary findings of the review, have urged that IUCN Oceania fully identify options that will enable them to tighten up on persistent mangrove-related issues for instance clearance of mangrove areas for development. Two options already on the table are the development of a mangrove policy framework and the review of the Crown Lands Act; highlighted by the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources, Mr. Tevita Boseiwaqa, at the Fiji National Mangrove Management Committee meeting on December 13, 2012 in Suva, Fiji.

The policy and legislation review is an activity under the Mangrove Ecosystems for Climate Change Adaptation and Livelihoods Project.

For more information please contact ruci.lumelume@iucn.org