Director General of SPREP
The abundance of our ocean and its resources is an imperative to protect, not just for the enjoyment of future generations, but for the well-being, prosperity and resilience of the present generation. Coastal and marine ecosystems provide food, livelihoods, and coastal protection to more than a billion people worldwide. Yet, the impacts of over-exploitation, pollution, coastal development and climate change on the ocean becomes increasingly visible. Regrettably, a 100-150% rise in ocean acidity is projected by 2100, affecting half of all marine life. In addition, it is expected that the metric weight of plastic in the ocean will exceed the metric weight of fish by 2050 if current pollution trends continue.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals particularly SDG 14 – the Ocean goal - seems even more daunting. The Pacific-championed SDG 14, calls specifically for universal action “to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution" by 2025.
Marine Pollution remains a major challenge for our Pacific islands, requiring responses at all levels beyond national boundaries. Marine pollution puts entire ecosystems and species at risk in addition to the people who depend on them for livelihood and economic development.
Globally, we hear the incessant call for the effective implementation of the SDGs particularly SDG 14. Plastic pollution is a planetary threat affecting nearly every marine and freshwater ecosystem globally. Guided by the long-term ambition of eliminating all discharge of plastic litter into the oceans, we support the development of a new legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution, to address this issue in an integrated manner.
As a region, we have adopted a number of ocean related communiqué and declarations, and pride ourselves in our leadership on ocean governance arrangements. We have established a ban on driftnet fishing and have invested in key partnerships to help address Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fishing.
Pacific Leaders are committed to fast track the development of policies to ban the use of single-use plastic bags, plastic and styrofoam packaging and have called on Pacific Rim partners to join and commit to action on addressing marine pollution and marine debris. We are supported in our efforts to protect our ocean and environment from harmful plastics through our Pacific Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter 2018-2025.
We have in Samoa, established national recycling associations to encourage and support innovative business models that support a circular economy using the 3Rs: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, as well as RETURN.
These are just some of the actions we have taken to address the mounting and undesirable impacts of human activity on the health of the ocean. They also highlight the value that our region places on the protection, and promotion of the development and security of our Blue Pacific Ocean.
As with climate change, failure to address waste management and pollution will have profound and lasting impacts on the health and well-being of our people. With limited waste management facilities, our countries struggle to eliminate the piles of single-use plastic found in most modern day packaging in addition to marine litter discarded in countries thousands of miles away that find their way to our Pacific shores.
In Samoa, around 80% of marine debris is from land-based sources – and marine litter is a key environmental challenge with around 70% of all litter in Samoa’s urban coastal waters comprising plastics. Cumulatively, they present an enormous threat to Samoa’s marine wildlife from land-based pollution; and pollution from vessels, ports and dry docks.
Key to the implementation of our Ocean strategy is the successful completion of the Samoa Marine Spatial Plan developed with the support of EU funding, and improving waste and pollution management. Some key initiatives to this end include:
- A ban of single-use plastic bags and straws, polystyrene cups and take-away food packaging;
- Established a container deposit scheme to address recyclable PET plastics as well as aluminium cans;
- Collaborated with SPREP under the ACP-MEAs Initiative to develop a Marine Litter Pollution Plan;
- Enacted legislation and institutional strengthening to provide a formal legal framework for waste management. In doing so, Samoa commits to keep its waters clean and healthy from land-based pollution via river and coastal ecosystems;
- Initiated extensive awareness raising campaigns such as were done through the Greening of the Pacific Games in 2019, to stop the culture of waste;
- Expanded coverage of schools with educational resources on waste and pollution inclusive of marine and oceans ecosystems through the Guardians program;
- Continued collaboration with Conservation International under its Citizen Science program to implement a microplastic survey program within Samoa waters in order to contribute to better understanding of the impact of microplastic on marine ecosystems and seafood for consumption; and
- Clean up campaigns of the four main rivers of the Apia Catchment
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
In order to secure a healthy, protected and climate resilient ocean, we need urgent action at the community, national, regional and global levels if the long-term ability of the ocean to provide services essential to human well-being is assured.
As custodians of this large Pacific Ocean, Leadership is key on critical issues impacting our Blue Pacific.
Economic circularity and ridge to ocean thinking will reduce land-based sources of marine pollution, including marine litter and plastic pollution.
Harmonisation of marine litter monitoring is essential to enhance policy and management interventions and critical efforts to combat ship-source marine and coastal pollution must be prioritised.
Investing in ocean science and building human and institutional capacity for our region are key drivers for urgent climate action, addressing ocean acidification and marine pollution, and are vital to building our resilience as Pacific communities.