Migratory species, worth the conservation efforts: Pacific Conversations with SPREP

Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Palau and Samoa are the Pacific countries attending the Twelfth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS COP12) held from 23 to 28 October, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. With over 120 Parties, the CMS provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats.

All too often there is the thought that conservation of species is always only for the sake of the species, and at the expense of people. In the Pacific region, when you conserve and protect species, it is also for the benefit of Pacific communities. These benefits are not always only economic, they also have cultural and spiritual values.

Across several Pacific islands, sharks are at the core of cultural legends, whales are at the heart of traditional chants and turtles have always been part of cultural practices. These ocean voyagers unite Pacific cultures - a loggerhead turtle that was satellite-tagged in French Polynesia in 2013 swam 13,679 km in 531 days, passing through the Exclusive Economic Zones of 12 Pacific islands.

When it comes to the economic benefits of conserving migratory species these can reach millions of dollars. Whales are now the source of multi-million dollar whale watching industries in Tonga, Niue, New Caledonia and French Polynesia; a single Reef Shark in Palau has a lifetime value of USD 1.9 Million in the tourism industry as opposed to the USD 108 value for its carcass.

In order to conserve migratory species, there must be a shared commitment from countries in which the species feeds and breeds, as well as the countries, known as Range States through whose waters or land it travels on its migrations.

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Delegates from Samoa and SPREP at the CMS COP12 

The Convention of the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wildlife (CMS) is the international agreement that promotes international collaboration to protect migratory species. 124 countries across the globe are Parties to this Convention, including six countries from the Pacific islands region - Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Palau and Samoa. The Twelfth Conference of the Parties is currently being held in the capital city of the Philippines, Manila.

At the COP, Parties agree to species being listed for conservation efforts, facilitated through actions or agreements to be to conserve and protect vulnerable species, as well as their habitats.

Three years ago at the CMS COP11, Fiji was successful in its proposal to list all nine species of mobulid rays. The mobulid rays are vulnerable to overexploitation due to their low productivity and communal behaviour. This year at the CMS COP12, Samoa in partnership with Sri Lanka has proposed that the Blue Shark be placed on Appendix II.

Whilst these efforts are done at the international level, we all have a role to play in this at the national level by supporting conservation efforts – both by caring, and sharing information about these migratory species which our Pacific cultures and traditions hold dear. One of the biggest ways to make an impact is by sharing information and making sure our actions are based upon informed decisions.

It's also in your hands to help make a difference by being part of this Pacific conversation. Learn more at: http://www.cms.int/en/legalinstrument/cms
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