World Ocean Day Commemoration
Statement for Pacific Islands Forum Acting Secretary General (incoming Pacific Ocean Commissioner), Dr Filimon Manoni
Thursday 8 June, 2023
His Excellency Ratu Wiliame Katonivere
President of the Republic of Fiji
Members of the Diplomatic Corp
Members of the Pacific Ocean Alliance, your partners, friends–
And most of all, to our dear children of the ocean
Iakwe, bula vinaka and welcome to today’s celebration.
Allow me to begin by thanking His Excellency Ratu Wiliame for taking time out today to commemorate World Ocean Day. Thank you very much Excellency. We are indeed honoured to join with you today not only in your role as President of the Republic of Fiji – but also as the paramount chief of the Macuata Province. We thank you for your commitment and sacrifice towards ocean work over the years.
Today, we are here as part of a global wave of celebrations for the ocean. The theme of this day is Planet Ocean: the tides are changing. It has now become an annual celebration, and so it should be.
Because for us here in the Pacific, the ocean is everything. If it were up to us, this celebration would be on a daily basis. As that is how much it matters to us. We are inextricably linked to the oceans. For many of us, we only have the ocean and each other, it is all we have. It is indeed the exclusive source of vitality and livelihood it is basis of our existence, our livelihoods, our cultures, our identity aspirations, and of course, our future.
The Pacific Ocean is no doubt the single greatest natural endowment to us – it is home to an incredible amount of marine life. It should be our generations investment to guarantee that inter-generational equity and the ;legacy we want to hand over to our children and their children.
Ensuring effective stewardship of this biodiversity, in the face of a multitude of challenges is our responsibility today. We have to understand better the climate oceans nexus. We cannot ignore the pressing challenges of pollution, , illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, warming and acidification and the erosion of marine biodiversity. These issues are no longer distant threats. They are real, they are here, they are immediate and they demand our undivided attention.
The issue is further exacerbated by the challenge now presented by Japan’s decision to discharge radioactive waste waster into the Pacific. It is unconscionable that while we are still struggling to address the outstanding nuclear testing legacy issues and to get those responsible to own up to their legal and perhaps appeal to their moral underpinnings to clean up their mess– we are now looking most likely to another wave of challenges with nuclear waste. The potential impacts of such a discharge are still unknown. But we are hopeful that the undertaking by the Prime Minister of Japan in February this year that there will not be any discharge until it is safe to do so is hold true. We also appeal to the responsible parties to do clean up the Runit Dome in the Marshall Islands.
This is why Forum Leaders have envisioned for our region the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. A vision by 2050 that we can maintain a healthy ocean, abundant in resources and supporting a healthy planet for prosperity. In effect the Ocean underpins the 2050 Strategy.
As the Forum Leaders are deciding on this process, we should expect later this year an implementation plan for the strategy outlining some of the region wide collective steps to achieve that vision for transformative change.We are here today to celebrate this one blue ocean on this one blue planet- and for that we do it the Pacific way, in our voices, and with everything we have and every shade of ocean colour possible.
Ladies and gentlemen and children, especially for those of you who marched all the way from Suva Flea Market to here at Albert Park, you have demonstrated the passion you have for our ocean and how much it means for us. Kommol tata, vinaka vakalevu.
A big thank you and congratulations to all of you school children who are here today- sacrificing a few hours of your learning time to be part of this celebration. This day is not only of national importance, but of regional significance and now a global movement.
In recognizing all you great children of the Blue Pacific, we are announcing a regional art competition for all the children of the region starting from age 4 to 18. This drawing and poster competition will run from today until the last week of July. And we will announce the winners in August. We look forward to receiving your drawings. Be creative. Make the most of your hidden talents.
To our children and our young generations who will be future leaders there is an ocean of opportunities for you out there especially in this ocean space. From marine scientists to explorers, to ocean artists and communicators, you can be anything you want in this ocean space.
That is why for 2023, the different actors in this ocean space under the Pacific Ocean Alliance banner came together and decided that for our region we have to elevate the celebration not only today but for the whole week. It started with an ocean vigil on Monday.
To the members of the Pacific Ocean Alliance, thank you for all these activities organized for this week and for all the work you do for the ocean every day. You are our ocean champions. You’ve demonstrated that everyone can work together in this vast ocean space.
I leave you all with these timeless words from the great Epeli Hauofa, our Ocean philosopher who made Fiji his home.
As Epeli tells us, “No people on earth are more suited to be the guardians of the world’s largest ocean than those for whom it has been home for generations”
Kommol tata, vinaka vakalevu, I thank you.–ENDS
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