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Respect ocean law – Puna

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General and Pacific Oceans Commissioner Henry Puna was on point when he asked nations to implement international law and the Convention on the Law of the Sea to conserve and have sustainable use of the ocean.

Mr Puna said threats of climate change and sea-level rising is the defining issue that jeopardises the livelihoods and well-being of Pacific people.

The Ocean Conference has come to an end but what the international community was shown by the Pacific was solidarity and the belief that the real threat to the region was climate change.

“The Pacific Islands Forum stands in solidarity with all states and partners in upholding and implementing international law to enhance management and sustainable use of oceans and their resources,” Mr Puna said.

“As guardians of the largest body of ocean on this planet, our intrinsic ties to the ocean spans time immemorial, delicately woven through a Pacific tapestry of cultures, shared bonds and stewardship.”

The Pacific nations have pressed on the issue that by following the laws of the ocean, everyone will benefit. The most important of these people are the ones who live in the Pacific.

This year, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea will become 40 years old. It was agreed to on 10 December 1982.

“We celebrate the Convention and its critical role as the Constitution of the oceans, providing the blueprint for the rights and entitlements critical to our aspirations and to the survival of our people,” said Mr Puna.

Pacific youths at UN Ocean Conference. Picture UNOC

“Indeed, it shapes our future as the Blue Pacific Continent by securing for us the rights and privileges to use our ocean space. And the sustainable management of ocean resources.

“Significantly, the Convention affords us our status as large ocean states covering territories with a combined EEZ of approximately 42 million square kilometres, and the political, economic and socio-cultural opportunities that come with it.”

This year, international law on oceans has taken a new turn. The global treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdictions was expeditiously finalised.

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This allows the Pacific to have greater powers in conserving what they hold dear and take action against those who violate such treaties.

Also highlighted was the Treaty of Rarotonga. Pacific nations also have a united view on the topic of nuclear threats.

The Treaty of Rarotonga is the common name for the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, which formalises a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific. The treaty bans the use, testing, and possession of nuclear weapons within the borders of the zone.

Participants listen to a statement by French President Emmanuel Macron at the UN Ocean Conference. Picture: UNOC

Mr Puna said the Pacific has called on states to implement the convention and other key global instruments, such as the Anti-Dumping London Convention, to protect the Pacific marine environment.

This is an indicator of what the Pacific’s view could be of Japan’s plans to dump nuclear wastewater into the Pacific.

Now that the Ocean Conference has ended, the coming days will tell how effective the global meeting was and how committed nations will be towards the various treaties and laws.

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