Of the 11,158 species listed for the Pacific on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN 2020) present in Pacific island countries and territories, 1,891 species (16.9%) are listed as threatened, falling in the categories of critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. In addition, 125 species are considered extinct or extinct in the wild.
This and other alarming facts were shared during a summary of the assessment of the state of conservation in the Pacific islands. It was presented to the 10th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas to set the scene for conference outcomes this week. The assessment is part of the combined State of Environment and Conservation in the Pacific Islands: 2020 Regional Report.
Data and information reviewed indicates a number of areas where the Pacific must improve, highlighting the crucial need for our region to ramp up all efforts to protect our environment.
While Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the Pacific cover approximately 20% of combined Pacific EEZs, a huge improvement from just 2% of MPA coverage in the 2013 State of Conservation of Oceania Report, this increase was achieved by declaration of large MPAs by seven Pacific islands countries and territories with many remaining Pacific islands yet to make progress in MPA establishment.
Expenditure on environmental management in 2019 was only 1.3% of government budgets as an average by 21 Pacific islands in 2019, with the report also finding that terrestrial protected areas across our Pacific island region have only increased by 1% since 2013, with a total coverage of only 6%.
“We have much ground to cover in the next five years as we work to address to address critical issues in the findings of this report,” said Mr Stuart Chape, Director of Island and Ocean Ecosystems of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
“We must implement a coherent, robust and achievable Regional Framework for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas to be adopted this week, this Framework is a critical component of our Pacific Leaders Blue Pacific approach.”
The conference closes after a day of virtual events on 27 November. This follows on from a special plenary session on 26 November to discuss and adopt the Pacific Islands Framework for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas 2021 – 2025. This special session follows the High-Level Session for Pacific island Ministers.
The State of Environment and Conservation in the Pacific Islands: 2020 Regional Report spans seven broad indicators that were agreed upon by SPREP Members in 2018. The seven indicators, each with sub-components, measured in the Report are Environmental Governance, Land, Coastal and Marine, Conservation and Protection, Biodiversity, Atmosphere and Climate, and Built Environment.
While our Pacific islands state of conservation is laid bare, there are numerous achievements made, several of which were shared with 1,700 online delegates that registered for the Conference.
“Despite the minimal spending from Pacific island governments on environmental governance, there are innovative approaches to finance with the region such as the Palau Green Fee and the Blue Fee of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. We also have the Micronesia Challenge, these are examples which other countries should consider emulating,” said Mr Chape.
“Increased expenditure for our environment within countries at the governance level is completely justified. We know through the MACBIO project that Fiji’s coral reefs and mangroves were valued at more than FJD 21.2 million in coastal protection and marine tourism brought in more than FJD 1 billion in 2014, these are just two examples of the value our environment provides us.”
The State of Environment and Conservation in the Pacific Islands: 2020 Regional Report may be the compass to provide guidance for decision-making for many Pacific island people, communities and governments over the coming years.
To access an advanced copy of the State of Environment and Conservation in the Pacific Islands: 2020 Regional Report please visit: https://pacific-data.sprep.org/dataset/advanced-copy-state-environment-and-conservation-pacific-islands-2020-regional-report
The conference is organised every five to six years by the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation (PIRT) and SPREP. The 10th Conference is hosted by the Government of New Caledonia.
The conference was originally scheduled to be held as a face-to-face event in Noumea, New Caledonia, from 19 – 24 April 2020. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the closure of borders for most countries in the Pacific, it has had to be postponed and changed to a virtual meeting.
The conference will be held from 24 – 27 November, with more than 150 speakers expected to present on various topics pertaining to the themes of “Our Ocean”, “Our Island”, and “Our Connection with Nature.” Currently, there are over 1700 registered participants of the conference.
For more information or to register for the conference, please visit the conference website at www.pacificnatureconference.com.
Photo: D. McFadzien