Clean Seas for a Cleaner Pacific to help save our lifeblood

"We can and we must work together to fix this as it's a problem that is reaching us in our Pacific homes. We cannot ignore it." – Mr Roger Cornforth, Deputy Director General, SPREP

"Marine pollution and debris should be a concern for all of us - we all need to make a personal commitment to address it." – Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, Head of the Pacific Sub-regional Office of the UN Environment.

                                                CP3
                              Waste collected by a boom placed in Mataniko River, Solomon Islands

16 March 2017, Suva, Fiji -
Globally, poor waste disposal practises contributes to 80% of marine debris, waste that travels up the food chain or then becomes an unwelcome part of the ocean, the very ocean that is our Pacific lifeblood. From the fish we eat to the reefs that protect our shores, Pacific marine ecosystems are under threat of marine litter and pollution.

The "Cleaner Seas for a Cleaner Pacific" event jointly coordinated by the UN Environment Pacific Sub Regional Office and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), during the Pacific Regional Preparatory meeting for the UN Ocean Conference highlighted the alarming statistics - impacts of marine debris across the region. It also showcased actions undertaken by the Pacific region to address this issue.

"In 2014 SPREP started work with the University of Auckland through a PhD student on modelling of sources and fate of marine litter as well as fish ingestion of plastic across the region," presented Mr Roger Cornforth, Deputy Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

"The research included taking samples across the region from New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti and Rapa Nui. Of the 34 species examined, plastic was found in 33 species which is 97% compared to a global trend of 67%."

"We can and we must work together to fix this as it's a problem that is reaching us in our Pacific homes. We cannot ignore it."

The first target in the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water, is to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds for which a global campaign has been launched by the UN Environment Programme.

"Our global goal is a Pollution-Free Planet, and we are using the Clean Seas Campaign to help reach that goal," said Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, Head of the Pacific Sub-regional Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment).

"Marine pollution and debris should be a concern for all of us - we all need to make a personal commitment to address it."

Pacific countries are already taking action with a SPREP led regional strategy underway called Cleaner Pacific 2025.

CP1"We need to make the connection between the land and the sea,"
- Dr Melchior Mataki, Solomon Islands (on right)

Solomon Islands are at risk from marine litter impacts due in part to the large population coupled with poor waste management. The city of Honiara has a population of around 78,000 that generates 1kg per person per day of waste and less than half of Honiara is provided with waste collected services. If the urban population growth continues at the current rate, waste generation in Honiara is expected to double within the next 18yrs.

In 2014 Solomon Islands were part of a UN Environment and SPREP Project that saw a litter boom placed in the Mataniko River to collect waste.

"The Mataniko Program aims to clean up, rehabilitate and promote proper waste management practices through awareness, education and training and promotion of 3R activities, starting in 2014. It is an on-going development program," said Dr Melchior Mataki, Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology.

"We need to make the connection between the land and the sea. Solid waste is very visible, but we also need to look at liquid waste, which affects our waterways, lagoons and ocean. Behaviour drives the waste issue. You can have the best waste management system in the world, but if the awareness which is 95% of the job that drives it is missing, you won't get good results."

Both the Clean Seas Campaign and the regional preparations are using voluntary commitments to support sustainable ocean management.

Individual actions, like refusing plastic bags and reducing household waste, can make a difference. An even bigger difference can be made by businesses, community groups, and even governments choosing to avoid certain types of waste or fund pollution control projects.

CP2
Attorney General Mr Filimon Manoni on right with the Marshall Islands delegation at the
Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting to the UN Ocean Conference in Suva, Fiji.

Republic of Marshall Islands introduced an Act in 2016 that bans the importation, manufacturing, sale or distribution of Styrofoam cups and plates, disposable plastic cups and plates and plastic shopping bags and to implement container deposits provisions.

"To show commitment, government imposed a self-ban on all government offices, against all single-use plastics, styrofoam based products. This self-imposed ban remained in place for a period of time, while work on the legislation for the wider ban was being undertaken," shared Mr Filimon Manoni, Attorney General of the Marshall Islands at the Clean Seas for a Cleaner Pacific event.

"All the major shopping centres, restaurant and all the little shops have begun phasing out the use of plastic bags, and Styrofoam products. Shops and restaurants have now switched to using paper-based cups. Progress on phase out was evident even before the law was passed."

The "Clean Seas for a Cleaner Pacific" event is just one of many to raise awareness and initiate discussion about how we can work together to achieve SDG 14 in the lead up to the UN Ocean Conference in June this year. To learn more of the different issues and impacts to Ocean health in the Pacific region please visit:
https://www.sprep.org/pacific-voyage-un-ocean-conference-2017/our-journey-pacbriefs, this accesses the full suite of factsheets developed by the SPREP and UN Environment Partnership.

This week's regional preparations target the UN Ocean Conference, which is co-hosted by the Governments of Fiji and Sweden and will be held in New York from 5 to 7 June this year. The historic event will rally global action to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water. - #SaveOurOcean #CleanSeas #4PacIslands

To make your commitment to prevent marine litter, please visit: http://www.cleanseas.org/
To learn more about the UN Oceans Conference, please visit: https://oceanconference.un.org/
For more information, please contact Nanette Woonton – nanettew@sprep.org
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