Island and Ocean Ecosystems

A successfully implemented marine spatial plan can reduce conflicts among users, reduce environmental impacts, facilitate compatible uses, and protect critical ecosystems. In practical terms, it provides a public policy process for society to better determine how the ocean and coasts are sustainably used and managed.

The Pacific BioScapes Programme is a European Union (EU) funded action, managed and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). The Programme has 12 million Euro funding and is being implemented through 30 activities in 11 countries. 

The BioScapes Programme has contracted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and now begun working closely with the Government of Kiribati to focus on national coastal, marine and atoll-level spatial planning. 

“Today is a special day for Kiribati. I call it special because it marks the beginning of our marine spatial planning journey for Kiribati. As a country with one of the largest Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs)in the world and abundant marine resources, it is absolutely vital that we plan for and manage this resource properly through this marine spatial planning tool and process” said Riibeta Abeta, Secretary of the Kiribati Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources Development, at the recent opening of a Marine Spatial Planning Workshop in Tarawa.

Over 99% of Kiribati is ocean and its EEZ is approximately 3.5 million square kilometres in size. The marine spatial planning process for this area will bring together multiple users of the ocean in a participatory manner and promote gender equality and socially inclusiveness with the overall aim to balance ecological, economic, and social objectives.

“Today is about understanding ocean planning, the right balance between sustainable use, and conservation of the ocean resources through a just Kiribati Marine Spatial Plan. We should acknowledge the fact that we have multiple interests and uses over the ocean.  The ideal marine spatial plan should therefore balance the delicate act of utilizing our ocean resources sustainably while conserving them for generations to come”, continued Mr. Abeta.

“I may be biased here but I wish to remind you all that central to this marine spatial plan should be the critical role of fisheries for our food system and economic development as well as stringent safeguard measures for the management and conservation of our ocean resources. We must find innovative ways to maintain the right balance. I am confident that we can craft a marine spatial planning strategy that reflects these unique needs and aspirations of Kiribati”.

The scope, scale, and content of the marine spatial plan will be defined by Kiribati, to solve problems that the Pacific region cares about in ways that reflect their unique interests, capacity to participate, and ways of doing business. Marine spatial planning should always build on and complement existing programs, partnerships, and initiatives. The intent is to ensure that Kiribati can develop an approach that it determines works best. 

Robust stakeholder engagement and public participation are essential to ensure that actions are based on a full understanding of the range of interests and interactions that occur in the Pacific. Consultation with scientists, technical experts, communities, including those with traditional knowledge, and other stakeholders is a foundation of marine planning. These processes required considerable resources and support. 

The Pacific BioScapes Programme has been able to provide this support to Kiribati. The Programme aims to contributes to the sustainable development of Pacific Small Island Developing States through the implementation of regional activities and national activities taking place across a diversity of ecosystems in Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

“We cannot embark on this critical space alone and we need support, and therefore I thank our partners from the Pacific BioScapes Programme - the EU, SPREP and IUCN for your timely project and leadership in this marine spatial planning space. Your expertise and support will no doubt be invaluable to our Marine Spatial Planning journey”, concluded Mr. Abeta.