The Blue Pacific is our vast ocean continent – covering 40 million square kilometres.
Our people have been stewards of this ocean for thousands of years. No matter the distances between our islands – our ancestors moved across the continent with ease and with certainty.
Our livelihoods and wellbeing – now and in the future, depend on keeping it – and the high seas surrounding it – healthy.
And we must ensure that the Blue Pacific always remains a place of peace, harmony and prosperity.
No matter where we live the ocean has a great influence on all of our lives.
I am a Pacific Islander from the Highlands of Papua New Guinea – you can’t see our Ocean from my place – but it still has an effect on daily life. The relationship between our Ocean and our Climate determines how well our food gardens provide and our ease of access to freshwater.
Droughts or dry spells mean we have less food and less water water. Our livelihoods are also affected because we have less produce to send to market.
Working together we can address many of our challenges and make the most of our opportunities. For example, by managing our fisheries collectively we can ensure they are fished sustainably and that we get a better economic return from those who enjoy eating our fish.
Our Pacific Leaders have prioritised the health of our Ocean and its Fisheries. They have also committed to addressing the effect that Climate Change is having on our region.
Pacific leadership led to climate change and ocean health being given standalone goals when the United Nations agreed on the global goals for sustainable development. Pacific leadership also helped shape the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015.
Sound regional Ocean and sector related policies such as the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape, and, integrating climate change and disaster risk management considerations for resilient development under the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific are testament to Pacific Leaders commitment to these issues that affect us all.
But we cannot achieve the objectives we have set for our Ocean and the sustainable use and conservation of its resources individually. Nor can we alone address and adapt to the challenges that Climate Change present us.
Partnerships are critical to our efforts and the Pacific Ocean Alliance, which comprises a broad stakeholder base made up of private, public and civil sector representatives was formed to progress integrated ocean management.
As the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, tasked by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to coordinate the regional approach to ensure integrated ocean management – I am of the view that it is necessary to embrace this approach to ensure cost-effectiveness and share good practise.
However, implementation remains a challenge. This is caused by a number of factors, including: (i) strategic divergence and institutional fragmentation in addressing regional issues, (ii) a lack of durable and sustainable partnerships for implementation, and (iii) an inadequate scientific and technical evidence-base and limited capacity to use this for optimal decision making.
With geopolitical changes in the region bringing further dimensions to consider in ocean governance, there is a need for our region to strengthen and further harmonise our ocean governance mandates for sustainable ocean development, as well as for more incisive ownership by member countries of the Pacific.
Going forward, we need to rejuvenate ocean governance in light of these contemporary pressures. This will be challenging for governments, regional agencies and other partners in the region to harmonise, mobilise and strategise in more integrated and coherent ways as we move forward, but I believe it can be done.
we have the instruments
we have the institutions
Now we must work side by side for innovative implementation
We are stewards of the great Pacific Ocean. Together we are one oceanic continent – The Blue Pacific.