Countries responsible for increased pressure on marine ecosystems should come forward with greater action, said the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon.
The Pacific nations calls for action have sung in unison.
Calls for better international law, stronger partnerships and honoured commitments to chart the way to sustainable ocean management have been made from the first day.
What needs to be seen now is if the commitment from the so called ‘international partners’ will come to fruition.
U.S Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry called on the international community to maintain the momentum of the Our Ocean Conference held two months ago in Palau, where more than 400 commitments — valued at over US$16 billion — were made.
He also encouraged countries and other stakeholders to join the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Action Alliance.
“The ocean touches every aspect of human life, from the air we breathe to the food we eat,” he said.
“Harmful emissions are making the ocean warmer, more acidic, less productive, and are driving rising sea levels.
“The ocean is a source of climate solutions as well.”
Meanwhile Pacific nations have made commitments which look to eventuate more than ever.
Solomon Islands Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele said the country is amending its environmental legislation and is on the verge of signing a maritime boundary treaty with Fiji this year.
He said the government has also carried out a nation-wide consultation and is finalising its marine spatial plan.
Manele said tuna was key to his country’s food security and employment, and the government has outlined innovative actions to manage this highly migratory source.
Minister for Natural Resources and Commerce of the Marshall Islands, John Silk said they are leading coastal conservation efforts through its Reimaanlok commitments, which place local communities and traditional practices at the forefront of resource management and protected areas.
It is using this to meet the national target of conserving half of all its coastal areas by 2030, and to support regional action through the Pacific Islands Forum 2050 strategy for a Blue Pacific.
Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Eric Kwa, said the ocean is essential to the identity of its people.
Mr Kwa said PNG is also working towards the declaration this year of marine protected areas covering over 17,000 square kilometres.
“Once concluded, the declaration will be included in the Oceans Voluntary Commitments register,” he said.
Vanuatu’s Minister for Climate Change, Silas Bule stressed the need for transformative action to protect the country’s ecosystem, including its coral reefs.
Mr Bule said as part of a coalition of the willing, Vanuatu is planning to ask the International Court of Justice to provide an advisory opinion on how existing international law contains protections for the oceans.
Timor-Leste Minister for Planning and Strategic Investment, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao said they were supported by international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. He said they recently succeeded in delimiting permanent maritime boundaries with Australia and is currently working with Indonesia to achieve the same.
Tongan Prime Minister, Siaosi Sovaleni said conservation efforts and sustainable development in Tonga depend on a healthy, resilient ocean that can function, among other things, as a climate regulator.
Minister for Oceans and Fisheries of New Zealand David Parker said his country is a maritime state with one of the largest and most biodiverse marine areas in the world.
Mr Parker said the protection of threatened species is an important pillar of its oceans and fisheries work.
“Seabirds, sharks, sea lions, penguins and Hector’s and Maui dolphins are at particular risk,” he said.
He said since 2018, New Zealand has spent over NZ$68.5 million (US$42.6 million) on ocean priorities, and more on core funding to regional agencies that are integral to helping Pacific island countries protect the ocean.