Statement by David Sheppard, Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme
Legendary navigator Ferdinand Magellan labeled our Ocean as beautiful and peaceful giving root to the name – Pacific Ocean. It spans 35% of the earth's surface and is home to approximately 3,000 different islands, vibrant Pacific communities with lively cultures and traditions, and a great bounty of marine and terrestrial life.
The Pacific region contains some of the most unique species on earth, with large numbers of plants and animals occurring nowhere else on the planet. Papua New Guinea, for example, contains over 5% of the world's biodiversity concentrated in less than 1% of the world's total land area. The Western Pacific is acknowledged to have the highest marine diversity in the world with up to 3,000 species found on a single reef.
The Pacific is truly blessed with an abundance of life, biodiversity including forest biodiversity, which we take for granted all too easily. We failed to meet global 2010 targets to halt the rate of biodiversity loss prompting a decade of action on biodiversity starting this year.
350 square km's of forest cover is lost world wide on a daily basis. In the Pacific islands alone, the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ suggests that out of 3,769 species assessed, 123 are extinct, while another 1,060 are threatened with extinction. To put these numbers in perspective using birds as an example, 1 in every 8 birds in the Pacific islands region will disappear forever unless we do something about it.
The world has now committed to the 20 "Aichi Targets" which we are to meet by 2020. In our region these targets will help us strengthen our conservation work across the Pacific as they are within our reach. They include a commitment to halve or bring close to zero, the loss of natural habitats and also to protect 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 20% of marine areas.
We have the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) in Kiribati - the largest marine protected area on earth - now a World Heritage Site. In our Pacific region we also have the Micronesia Challenge, a commitment by the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau, Guam and the Northern Marianas to conserve at least 30% of the near-shore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020.
For the year ahead the Pacific region will strengthen our approach in how we continue to meet these targets and play our role in saving our island biodiversity – the overarching foundation for the Pacific way of life. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) will work with partners and Pacific island countries, building up the strategies we now use to help save our biodiversity.
This year on 22 May, the International Biodiversity Day, take time to reflect upon the links between your community and our Island biodiversity including our forests.
Biodiversity belongs to us all, not just the environmentalists or conservationists in our region, we are all stewards. Let's smarten up and Value our Island Biodiversity – It's our Life.