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UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Oceans, Ambassador Peter Thompson has encouraged the Pacific to use its ‘unique moral authority and obligation’ to lead global discussions on climate and ocean change, in the lead up to the UN Oceans conference in Lisbon, Portugal in June next year.
“We have this moral obligation to the world as stewards of the planet’s largest expanse of Ocean; but more particularly, and I feel this in my bones as a grandfather, we have that obligation to keep faith with the Pacific generations whose lives stretch out ahead of us into the great unknown. Stewardship is a hollow concept if we fail them, Ambassador Thompson told delegates at the Pacific Ocean Alliance (POA) meeting in Suva today.
He reiterated the UN Secretary General’s observation of the ‘inspiring leadership’ by Pacific Leaders on ocean issues.
“This is readily apparent on the world stage. Back here in the Pacific, our regional organisations, coordinated by the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC), are moving to meet those aspirations. And national governments are moving to put laws in place to enforce them.
He singled out Fiji and Vanuatu as regional and global leaders in declaring 100% marine spatial plan for its EEZ and the banning of single use plastics, respectively.
“I was proud to be a Pacific Islander in at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) Ministerial in Apia last month when Minister after Minister announced the single-use plastic bans put in place in their countries and/or being now the process of legislation.
“And I was heartened to be at the first conference of the Pacific Islands Parliaments Group in Papeete last month to witness the adoption of the Taraho’i Declaration with its strong calls for Pacific Parliaments to promote responsible and sustainable fisheries, fight against illegal fishing, reduce marine pollution, establish marine protected areas, and integrate Climate and Ocean agendas, said the visiting UN Oceans Envoy.
He highlighted the ‘Plastic Plague’ as one of the challenges for the Pacific, now and into the future.
“Do not imagine the battle to end the Plastic Plague which has inundated the Ocean, will be an easy one to win. The plastic industry is planning and investing for 40% growth over the next decade. Like the tobacco industry before it, the plastic industry is aware of the public’s growing dismay. Remedial action is beginning, but green-washing is also growing, he reminded POA Alliance members.
He encouraged the Pacific to take up a ‘Tabu Soro’ or ‘no surrender’ fight against plastics.
“Even more perniciously, that plastic flotsam is breaking down into plastic micro-fibres that make their way in virtually invisible legions, propelled by ocean currents and gravity, from the planet’s icy poles to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. They have permeated the food chain. We are eating them. They are crossing our blood-brain barriers. Again, for our children and grandchildren, we have a moral obligation, to take on the battle against plastic pollution. Tabu Soro, no surrender on this.”
Ambassador Thompson also touched on overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices happening in the region.
“Illegal fishing, much of which occurs in the Pacific Ocean, steals some $23 billion worth of fish annually. This theft is from governments, from communities, from science and from nature and we must be united in bringing this scourge to an end.
He said the best weapon to fight illegal fishing is ratifying the Food and Agriculture Organisations (FAO’s) Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA).
“Once every Pacific country has ratified it, we can close the Pacific to illegal fishing. Most of the Pacific Rim countries have already ratified PSMA, as have French Polynesia, Fiji, Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu, with others moving to do so. Yes there are obligations of enforcement, but they are greatly outweighed by the benefits of ending illegal fishing, said Ambassador Thompson.
The former Fijian diplomat said his office is pursuing the campaign to end harmful fisheries subsidies.
“I will be in Geneva next week to continue the campaign to end harmful fisheries subsidies. It is calculated that some $20 billion of the public’s money are given annually as fisheries subsidies, over 80% of which go to industrial fleets. Some of the latter are out there chasing diminishing fish-stocks, some are engaged in illegal fishing. What kind of insanity is that, he said.
“We are calling for the $20 billion to be spent instead on assisting coastal communities face the great challenges that are coming with Climate and Ocean Change. The World Trade Organisation has the responsibility of bringing these subsidies to an end, but negotiations in Geneva are making slow progress.
The two day Pacific Ocean Alliance meeting ends tomorrow.
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