Speech by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at Pacific Oceanscape event

Pacific Islands Forum
Pacific Oceanscape Leaders Dinner
Monday 27 August 2012, 6:30pm
at the Tamarind Restaurant

Speech by Tuiloma Neroni Slade
Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum
Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner

“State of the Pacific Oceanscape

Our hosts for the evening,
Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Hon Henry Puna
Mr Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO, Conservation International
Hon Forum Leaders
President of the House of Ariki, Tou Ariki
President of the Koutu Nui
Dignitaries of the land and of the region

Kia orana,
We are all most honoured to be in this land so famed for its exotic pleasures and alluring ways.

We gather tonight in celebration of our Pacific Ocean – Te Moana Nui o Kiva. I cannot imagine a better time or place for the occasion, with the display of majestic ocean-presence (behind me) that is before you and in the presence of such luminary and distinction.

We have with us the political decision-makers of the region at the highest level, leaders of business and the community and of international and non-governmental organisations and, with the presence Dr Sylvia Earle, some of the most celebrated ocean-scientists in the world.
I speak in my dual capacity as the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General and as the Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner, and rather privileged to do so, because within my two titles are the very core concepts of islands and oceans which lie deep within the Pacific character; and which bind and unite peoples and cultures with their ocean environment.

My purpose now is to provide you with an overview of the state of the Pacific Oceanscape. In doing so, I hope to challenge you with a sense of optimism, shared challenge, and urgency for the work at hand.

It is not possible to understand the Oceanscape without some appreciation of the scale at hand. Covering an area of nearly 40 million square kilometres of ocean and island ecosystems, the Pacific Oceanscape is larger than the surface of the moon and encompasses great geological, biological and social diversity.

The startling fact, though, is that we probably know more about the lunar surface that we do about the ocean which surrounds us and what lies in the depths of the oceans. I hope that in time, investments in the Pacific Oceanscape and research by our CROP agencies and fellow partners may change all this. This is indeed one of the Oceanscape’s key priorities, to build a better understanding so that we may better care for the Ocean.

Oceanscape context

The Oceanscape was an inspiration of the President of Kiribati, with a concept which brought President Tong before the Forum Leaders in 2009 based on the success of the very impressive Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) supported by Conservation International. Forum Leaders moved quickly to embrace the idea.

The Framework for the Pacific Oceanscape was developed through collaborative efforts and adopted by Forum Leaders at their meeting in Vanuatu in 2010.

The Oceanscape has been designed in a way that fits in with the relevant priorities of the Pacific Plan, which is the master regionable strategy for sustainable development, and is becoming the natural mechanism for implementing the Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy. These Pacific arrangements, the Oceanscape and the Regional Ocean Policy, are strongly aligned with our region’s commitment to sustainable ocean development as expressed in Agenda 21 of Rio (1992) and its subsequent plans.

In addition to helping drive the Regional Ocean Policy, the Oceanscape is also seen as a vehicle to build pride, leadership, learning and cooperation across our region. Forum Leaders have already recognised the utility of the Pacific Oceanscape in this regard. Last year, for example, at their meeting in Auckland, Leaders “…urged the international community to work towards integrated ocean management, using the Pacific Oceanscape as a model, with the aim of realising relevant international goals to contribute to the health and vitality of the ocean environment, including through the global network of marine protected areas…”

Leaders also “highlighted the threats to the ocean environment, including from ocean acidification, pollution, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing…” and they called for the maximisation of returns to Members from the conservation and sustainable management of ocean resources”.

I would note in this connection the outcomes of the recent Rio+20 conference and the range of very significant provisions in the Rio text pertaining to the sustainable development of oceans and seas, and, moreover, the fact that the sentiments expressed by Forum Leaders are largely in line with the Rio+20 outcomes.

Forum Leaders took the opportunity of Rio to speak about the Oceanscape and the broader importance of the Pacific ocean and her fisheries at several events, as I did myself. With the unprecedented global focus on oceans, I am of little doubt that the Oceanscape will prove a most effective tool to help translate the outcomes of Rio+20 into meaningful action for our region.
Strategic priority areas

The Oceanscape has six strategic areas of priority – a few of which I will touch upon here.

Strategic priority 1 – Jurisdictional rights and responsibilities

The first priority relates to jurisdictional rights and responsibilities.
The Oceanscape Framework recognises the paramount importance of developing and managing adequate policy and governance frameworks within regional and national jurisdictions to accurately define and declare baselines, archipelagic status (where applicable), maritime zones, outer high seas limits and shared boundary solutions.

These maritime zones and boundaries are important to realising improved ability to sustainably manage ocean resources and activities within these areas including migratory fish stock management and vessel monitoring, including successful prosecution of illegal vessels. Similarly, growing interest in deep sea minerals exploration and exploitation would offer significant regional challenges if maritime boundaries and zones remain poorly defined.

I am pleased to note that by the end of this week just over half of the region’s 48 shared boundaries will be agreed. To have reached this point is a substantive achievement and I would like to acknowledge the tremendous technical work and support of SPC, FFA and member states and key donors in this regard. But I need also to stress that there remains much work to do to secure our EEZs and to support Pacific member countries to formalise their maritime boundaries.

As an example, I draw your attention to the fact that approximately 1.8 million square kilometres of extended continental shelf territory is currently under claim by Pacific island countries. Each claim must be individually defended by the countries involved and this will require sustained resourcing and commitment from member countries, development partners, NGOs and technical agencies alike.

Strategic priority 2 – good ocean governance

The second priority is good ocean governance.
Epeli Hau’ofa, noted Tongan and Pacific writer, observed that “no people on earth are more suited to be guardians of the world’s largest ocean than those for whom it has been home for generations”. A hallmark of the Pacific Oceanscape to date has been the participation by a broad range of partners including civil society both at national and regional levels, largely through participation in the CROP Marine Sector Working Group. In the coming years we seek to grow this participation along with the participation of the private sector, through the establishment of a Regional Ocean Alliance or Partnership to support integrated planning and management.

Strategic priority 3 – sustainable development, management and conservation

Oceanscape’s focus on sustainable development, management and conservation, the key priority, represents a huge area of work that in many ways is at the heart of the initiative. I could speak all evening on the achievements of our region in fisheries management and the opportunities for tuna industry development, the potential for responsible exploitation of seabed minerals, and many other issues. I will however, largely confine my comments here to the subject of marine protected areas, noting that this is one of a number of important tools for sustainable development and management of our ocean resources. It is also an approach that our Forum Leaders have embraced with commitments that are nationally, regionally and globally outstanding and without precedence.

Pacific Island states are well recognised for their highly innovative marine protected area initiatives. A few of the higher profile initiatives include the Phoenix Islands Protected Area I have referred to, the Micronesia Challenge, the Coral Triangle Initiative, the Tokelau whale and shark sanctuary, and last but certainly not least the growing network of locally managed marine areas that are found in many Pacific island countries. I wish to take this opportunity to welcome the latest initiative in our region – the Cook Islands Marine Park, which I understand Prime Minister Puna will formally launch tomorrow. At 1 million square kilometers I understand this Marine Park will become the world’s largest.

As we intensify our regional efforts to protect 10% of our marine and coastal areas by 2020, it will be vital that these conservation efforts integrate and fully consider opportunities to sustainably utilise marine resources. The potential for opportunities and benefits are substantial, including for key development objectives in tourism, fisheries, health care and invaluable benefits for all humankind, and most importantly for the integrity and stability of our Earth’s ecosystems. The cost of managing and monitoring these globally significant conservation efforts will be an ongoing challenge and must be supported by all partners in order to fairly and sustainably manage this responsibility.

It will be important that investments into the region are also channeled beyond EEZs – to areas beyond national jurisdiction – the high seas. Over the coming years the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the high seas, including the opportunity for the development of an international instrument under UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, will require a collaborative effort from member countries and from the world community at large. At the Rio+20 meeting this was a contentious area of negotiation but one that remains of critical importance to our region.

Strategic priority 6 - adapting to a rapidly changing environment

As I draw to a close I would like to briefly touch upon the important issue of climate change which is another key priority strategically addressed within the Oceanscape Framework. Our region has in recent years endured a number of significant natural disasters and increasingly we are experiencing the impacts of climate change, including coral bleaching, sea level rise and the growing threat of ocean acidification.

By instinct, Island communities, are naturally adaptable. However, the scale, speed and types of change we are now facing is certainly unprecedented and potentially beyond our ability to respond and cope with, particularly in the longer term. The limits to adaptation by both communities and ecosystems must be recognised and met with much greater global commitment to serious and meaningful mitigation efforts.

here is no sugar coating this message, the dangers are real, the stakes are too high and, alarmingly, the very survival of many of our communities is now a high-risk reality.


It is clear that the growing momentum around the Oceanscape Framework is helping to create a renewed identity of our States as nations defined by the oceans. Indeed, this is Prime Minister Henry Puna’s vision for the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum – one of “Large Ocean Island States – the Pacific Challenge”. I believe we are all here because we agree with the Prime Minister and that we applaud and support his initiative.

The vaka of the Pacific Oceanscape is now in the water, and the voyage is well and truly underway.

I thank you for your attention.

Kia manuia.

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