World Oceans Day: WWF-Pacific
WWF-Pacific’s Fiji Great Sea Reef (GSR) programme manager, Alfred Ralifo said this year’s theme is an appeal to further explore new and innovative opportunities on ocean financing and governance; strengthen ocean data collection and monitoring the health of our oceans through innovative partnerships that supports the integration of science and traditional knowledge by recognizing ways of sustainably harvesting ocean resources; creating viable business plans; identifying proper methods of addressing land based activities such as agriculture, forestry and mining, that affect the health of our oceans through innovative ways of waste and pollution management control.
“Our oceans provides us with many resources from food, energy, medicine, minerals, revenue, recreation, happiness and well-being, tradition and culture, spirituality, regulating our climate, yet our current way of actions and the treatment of our oceans does not reflect the respect and protection our oceans deserve in terms of its generosity from the ecosystem services it provides,” Ralifo said.
He added that the WWF-Fiji office supports two programmes, which are the Great Sea Reef and the Sustainable Fisheries and Seafood programme.
The GSR of Fiji is located along the northern shore of the island of Vanua Levu running westward towards the south west end of Viti Levu and is the third-largest continuous reef system in the world.
It is highly integrated, forming the basis of a major coral reef ecosystem which is of central importance to the climate resilience and economic well-being of a population of 360,000 Fijians (40% of the total population) in the provinces adjacent to the GSR who depend on it directly for food, income, and protection from natural disasters. Statistics from the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association indicate the GSR is also an essential natural resource providing 65% of foreign exchange earnings, namely, tourism and fisheries and key to Fiji’s national economy.
“Since Fiji's GSR is part of the ocean, it faces all the threats and challenges as the ocean itself - from Climate Change threats such as increased ocean temperature, sea level rise, storm surges, ocean acidification and human induced threats - overfishing, pollution, unsustainable farming and logging, mining, etc.”
“The benefits healthy reefs provide in reducing the impacts of wave breaks and storm surges also justify investments to maintain the health of Fiji’s GSR. If wisely managed, this reef can play an important role not only for climate resiliency gains by the country’s vulnerable population that depends on it for their livelihoods and protection, but it can also help regenerate coral reefs in the country and Pacific region once the global climate and sea temperature rise has been stabilised,” said Ralifo.
He added that changing the mind set of people, financial institutions, government and communities is vital to supporting an enabling environment that protects the ocean.
“All the solutions are found in nature. If we protect, respect and use our natural resources wisely, then all of our problems will start to disappear, we can develop a carbon neutral sustainable blue economy business plan that can bring in multiple benefits for our people and our ocean,” Ralifo added.
For WWF-Pacific’s Sustainable Fisheries and Seafood (SFS) programme manager, Duncan Williams, this year’s theme holds special significance given the global CoVID19 pandemic and the impacts to both large and small economies as a result of actions taken globally to halt the spread of the disease.
“In the Pacific, we are fortunate enough to be able to alternatively source our food from the land and ocean. A study published in 2016 estimated that over two million metric tonnes of fish was harvested from the exclusive economic zones of twenty pacific island countries and territories. We are sustained by the oceans and for most Pacific island people, the health and wellbeing of our oceans is intrinsically linked to our own,” Williams said.
However Williams added that there is a need to ensure resources are managed sustainably so that people will be able to continue to enjoy the benefits long into the future and especially during times of global crisis.
“Innovation often means a new way of doing things with new ideas or technologies or simply a new mind-set. This could mean looking at enhancing ecosystem services or nature-based solutions for example. This is important given what we are facing in terms of the COVID 19 crisis and the looming effects of climate change.”
Williams highlights that WWF-Pacific’s SFS programme works with partners to reform fisheries management at all levels.
“Domestic and international seafood markets are targeted, which demand seafood products, often with little regard for their source, traceability or environmental sustainability to effect and encourage change through the development of sustainable and traceable supply chains. The programme is also focussed on improving awareness and investing in activities that combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.”
“We work very closely with community-based fisheries to better understand issues and adopt sustainable fishing practices, we also work on safeguarding and recovering populations of endangered and threatened marine species such as sharks and turtles,” Williams added.
Williams said that humanity’s future depends on clean and healthy oceans and that this can only be achieved by working together and harnessing solutions which are centred around people and nature.