Pacific talks ocean, climate change action with United Kingdom: media release

Categories Media releasesPosted on

A joint media release of UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, the Pacific islands Forum, the Pacific Community, and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme

Suva, 2 September 2020 – Climate action and oceans realities for the Pacific have been the focus of a just-ended virtual tour of the region by the United Kingdom’s Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Lord Zak Goldsmith.

Yesterday, Lord Goldsmith held a virtual regional roundtable discussion with the four largest regional organisations serving the Pacific: the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA). 

The two-hour dialogue late Monday Fiji time followed a week-long virtual dialogue ‘tour’ of the Pacific for Lord Goldsmith, who met with the governments of Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. He said the UK will put nature at the heart of the climate change discussion.

“For COP26 to be successful, it needs to be truly inclusive. The UK wants to ensure Large Ocean States have a platform, and the opportunity to shape the agenda. We want to make sure COP26 delivers important change, to finalise the Paris Agreement, to ramp up ambition and put that into action to limit global temperature rises,” Lord Goldsmith said. [COP26 is the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties 26th meeting, to be held in Glasgow in 2021.]

Welcoming the opportunity for heads of Pacific regional organisations working on climate change and the ocean to meet with the UK Pacific Minister, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said the dialogue “was a valuable opportunity to reaffirm the Pacific region’s commitment to strong and ambitious climate action, as set out in the Kainaki II Declaration”. 

“Of particular importance to the Blue Pacific Continent is the ocean–climate nexus. The ocean is central to everything we represent as a region. And a defining issue is the securing of our maritime boundaries in the face of sea level rise. The UK’s COP26 presidency is a strategic opportunity for the Pacific and its people, and I am encouraged by Lord Goldsmith’s commitment to amplify Pacific issues and leadership at COP26, to ensure Paris Agreement commitments are upheld,” she said.

Building on the high-level Blue Pacific context, SPREP Director General Kosi Latu extended the focus on climate priorities, including building regional resilience, and climate financing, as well as ensuring full implementation of the Paris Agreement, in line with the December 2020 date. 

“The urgent need for climate action is heightened as COVID-19 increases our vulnerability. Momentum must continue — for us as a Pacific people, living on the frontlines of climate change, this is about our survival,” said Mr Kosi Latu. 

“We are encouraged by the inclusive approach of the UK, as the COP26 Presidency, it allows our collective Pacific voice to be brought to the fore.” 

The issues of maritime boundaries and sea-level rise, as Pacific priorities for the 2nd UN Ocean Conference and the UN Decade for Ocean Science, were facilitated by SPC Director General Dr Stuart Minchin. 

“We all recognize that sea-level rise will have an impact on a wide range of issues in the Pacific, including on the shorelines from which our maritime boundaries are defined” said SPC’s Director-General. 

“Working together on capturing, analysing and sharing reliable data on this issue will be essential in ensuring that our region is able to effectively manage and respond to the changing ocean environment.”

Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, raised oceanic fisheries priorities and issues that are of critical importance for Pacific nations from both an economic and a sustainability perspective. Dr Tupou-Roosen said, “It’s important that Pacific nations, as custodians of the resources within our sovereign maritime domain, build strong relationships with global allies and champions.” 

“Wherever we have the opportunity”, she said, “hard-won gains in regional fisheries cooperation on key areas including rights-based management, and monitoring, control and surveillance efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, must be leveraged to create enduring social and economic benefits for our people, especially as we look to manage climate-change impacts on our shared fisheries resources and the flow on effects on fisheries revenues of small island developing states and territories in the region.

“I was delighted to attend a virtual roundtable with regional organisations in the Pacific. We had a wide-ranging and productive discussion on how to tackle climate change and protect our ocean. There can be no more important region to be engaging with on the climate–ocean nexus than the Pacific.”

Thanking the roundtable group for the exchange of views, Lord Goldsmith noted the “fantastic ambition and leadership on climate change” at every stage of his virtual Pacific tour.

“That ambition and leadership, combined with being on the front line of climate change, and tackling its impacts, gives the Pacific a strong moral authority, which is encouraging other countries to raise ambition on climate change. We can’t solve climate change without restoring and protecting nature on a massive scale through cooperation.”

 ENDS//

logos of UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency; Pacific islands Forum; Pacific Community; and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme

 Media contacts

UK–Pacific Media, vosita.kotoiwasawasa@fcdo.gov.uk

PIF Media LisaW@forumsec.org

SPC Media, PeterF@spc.int

SPREP Media, NanetteW@sprep.org

FFA Media, ronald.toitoona@ffa.int

Wallis and Futuna counts FADs washed up on its coasts

Categories News, NewsPosted on

Wallis and Futuna is counting the number of lost and stranded fish-aggregating devices (FADs) that wash up on its coasts so it can calculate the damage they cause.

The campaign is being run by the Wallis and Futuna Fisheries Service. 

Bruno Mugneret, from the Department of Fishing and Management of Marine Resources in Wallis, said the number of washed-up FADs had become a problem.

“In Wallis and Futuna, the problem appeared with great intensity in 2019, when the population saw the resurgence of these objects on beaches, on reefs, in the lagoon, and also in the open sea around the islands, causing many questions about the origin and the activities associated with this multiplication,” he said.

The Fisheries Service is collecting data from fishers and local populations. It will use a radio campaign to raise awareness in communities about their important role as “sentries” in locating washed up FADs. 

The results of the research will be shared with coastal communities, so they can help develop ways of managing the FADs and protecting coastal environments.

Drifting FADs on deck of a purse-seine vessel, Micronesia. Photo: Pew Charitable Trusts.
Drifting FADs on deck of a purse-seine vessel, Micronesia. Photo: Pew Charitable Trusts.


The Wallis and Futuna research complements a study on where drifting FADs ended up being stranded in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean. One of the scientists involved in the study was Lauriane Escalle, of the Pacific Community (SPC).

“SPC conducted this study to estimate the impact that the massive use of FADs can have on the coastal areas of our region. The data available demonstrate a certain under-estimation of strandings,” Dr Escalle told Wallis and Futuna Fisheries Service people at the launch of the local campaign. 

She said it was important that island nations and territories collect information on stranded FADs to contribute to existing databases that are used to assess grounding rates and the consequences of strandings on coastal ecosystems and local fisheries.

Dr Escalle was also involved in research that determined that between 30,000 and 65,000 drifting FADs are deployed a year in the WCPO by industrial fishers. At least 7% of them become stranded. The largest numbers have washed up on the coasts of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Although drifting FADs have become an important tool in increasing tuna catches and in the profitability of fishing fleets, the sheer numbers of them are causing environmental problems and are a drain on budgets of island states that are left to dispose of them.

The Wallis and Futuna campaign began in February. The territory is a member of SPC.

Pacific urged to stop Japan’s nuclear waste plans

Categories News, NewsPosted on

Republished from Radio New Zealand, 29 January 2019

Environmentalists want to stop Japan’s plans to discharge what they say is more than a million tonnes of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.

The Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Credit: supplied to Radio New Zealand

A Greenpeace nuclear specialist, Shaun Burnie, said a nuclear water crisis at the Fukushima Plant had been worsened by technical failures.

He said flawed decision-making behind the plans was driven by cost-cutting from the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Mr Burnie called on Pacific countries to stop Japan’s plans, given the need to protect the environment, regional communities and the fishing industry.

“Any nation that requires or is active in the Pacific on environmental issues, whether it’s economic, whether it’s fisheries.

“We’ve done so much damage to our oceans – from climate change, from nuclear weapons testing by France and the United States.

“The Japanese Government can make a decision in managing this waste without threatening the environment.

“And if they hear voices from around the Pacific saying that it’s not acceptable, that certainly can have an effect.”

Dr Tanaka Noriko from the Japanese Embassy in Wellington denied the Greenpeace report.

He said tests carried out on the nuclear water last year had shown a value below the detection rate.

But Greenpeace maintains the government and TEPCO must reassess their options for the long-term management of the highly contaminated water at Fukushima.

Mr Burnie said “the only viable option is the long-term storage of this water in robust steel tanks over at least the next century, and the parallel development of water processing technology”.

He said the government and TEPCO had set an objective of “solving” the radioactive water crisis by 2020, which was never credible.

Nuclear specialist, Shaun Burnie, Greenpeace Germany, north of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, with plant in background. Greenpeace. Credit: Photo supplied to Radio New Zealand

“TEPCO has finally admitted that its technology has failed to reduce levels of strontium, and other hazardous radioactivity, to below regulatory limits.

“Discharging into the Pacific is the worst option and must be ruled out.

“We have raised the water crisis with the UN International Maritime Organization and firmly stand with local communities, especially fisheries, who are strongly opposed to any plans to discharge contaminated water into their fishing grounds,” said Mr Burnie.