08 September 2023, Apia Samoa - The impacts of mercury pollution can be challenging to identify and reverse but strategies to reduce mercury contamination are important because mercury can cause significant adverse effects to humans and ecological health.
The lifecycle management of mercury containing products presents a significant challenge for Pacific Island countries and territories. The Minamata Convention on Mercury is the first global agreement specifically designed to address contamination from a heavy metal, opened for signature on October 10, 2013 and entering into force on August 16, 2017, the Convention seeks to address issues related to the use and release of mercury in trade and in industrial processes.
Under the Minamata Convention, individual countries are charged with protecting human health and the environment from the risks of mercury exposure by systematically controlling mercury emissions and releases, including phasing out the use of mercury in certain products and processes.
As part of the 31st Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) Meeting of Officials, themed, Sustainable, transformative and resilient for a Blue Pacific, a side event presented the Global Environment Facility (GEF) ISLANDS Pacific Project’s Campaign Plan with the aim of lobbying interest amongst all relevant stakeholders to join the “Mercury Free Pacific” campaign.
The side event informed Pacific Island government representatives and stakeholders on the risks posed by the ongoing use of mercury and mercury-containing products by highlighting the current situation in the Pacific region on work related to the management, phase-out and safe disposal of mercury and mercury-containing products and wastes.
The side event featured, Ines Benabdallah, of the GEF Chemicals and Waste Unit, Eisaku Toda, of the Minamata Convention Secretariat, David Evers of the Biodiversity Research Institute Mercury in Dentistry, Emele Duituturaga, of the World Alliance on Mercury Free Dentistry Mercury (Fiji), Fiasosoitamalii Siaosi, of Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment, Veari Kula, of the PNG Conservation and Environment Protection Authority, Edward Nicholas and Joshua Sam, of SPREP.
The side event presented a Pacific snapshot of findings of the Pacific Regional Minamata Initial Assessment (MIAs). Delegates who attended were informed that the regional Mercury Free Campaign will empower and encourage SPREP Members to become Parties to the Minamata Convention on mercury as well as to collect and dispose of legacy mercury waste in the Pacific island’s region. The campaign will develop a series of high-level communications to engage the people of the Pacific especially leaders on the issues of mercury, to improve understanding of the aims of the Minamata Convention, and of leaders’ knowledge in products containing mercury, and their available alternatives.
Panel members showcased regional efforts and highlights of MIA findings from the Pacific Hub of the World Alliance on Mercury Free Dentistry based in Fiji, the Samoa Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment and the Papua New Guinea Conservation and Environment Protection Authority.
The primary activities of the MIA projects in the Pacific include a review of institutional and capacity needs for implementation of the Convention, an assessment of national regulations, policies, and legislation to assist with preparations for compliance with the obligations of the Convention and an identification of the primary sources of mercury emissions and releases as part of a detailed National Mercury Profile. The MIAs are conducted with financial assistance from GEF and is being implemented by UNEP in eight Pacific islands being in coordination with SPREP.
Participants learnt that the Pacific faces unique challenges related to the Minamata Convention, as territory size limits options for sound management, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste and were informed that possible solutions to these challenges may include extending manufacturer and distributor responsibility and raising awareness.
The event participants were reminded that with greater collaboration and cooperation across the region, the potential risks associated with mercury in the environment can be reduced and were encouraged to choose healthier fish options, those with lower mercury levels, as part of their diet, purchase no or low mercury product substitutes when possible and support legislation that helps reduce the impacts of mercury on the environment.
The 31st SPREP Meeting of Officials and associated meetings are taking place at Taumeasina Island Resort in Samoa this week, from 4-8 September 2023. The meetings are guided by the theme: “SPREP@30th Sustainable, transformative and resilient for a Blue Pacific.”
The 31st SPREP Meeting of Officials and associated meetings bring together SPREP's 21 Pacific Island Member countries, 5 Metropolitan Members and partners to discuss strategic issues pertaining to the organisation, and to approve the 2024-2025 work plan. The 21 Pacific Island Member countries and territories of SPREP are: American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. The five Metropolitan members of SPREP are: Australia, France, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
In our efforts to fulfil our vision of ‘a resilient Pacific environment, sustaining our livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with our cultures’, SPREP is extremely grateful to our valued Members, development partners, donors, our CROP family, and stakeholders.
For more information on the 31SM, please contact: [email protected]