The Tuvalu delegation at UNOC2022.
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 29 June 2022, Lisbon Portugal UNOC2022 - Tuvalu has issued a global appeal to the international community to recognise that the boundaries of Pacific island nations Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are not redefined by sea level rise caused by climate change. 

The world's fourth smallest country has also called on world leaders to ensure the rights of Pacific countries to their tuna stocks in their existing EEZ are preserved, as Small Island Developing States battle coastal erosion, among other impacts of the climate crisis. 

Addressing the UN Ocean Conference Plenary Session at the Altice Arena in Lisbon Portugal on Wednesday, Head of the National Delegation of Tuvalu, Dr. Tapugao Falefou, issued the appeal in the spirit of kaitasi, or shared ownership. He told the meeting that the people of Tuvalu believe in the concepts of kaitasi and fale-pili (being good neighbours and adopting the responsibility to share and care), which could also be the answer to some of the world’s problems.

 “Our willingness to act as responsible custodians of the ocean is part of our drive to act as good neighbours to the global community. Our concept of shared ownership underlines our belief that all countries of the world should share in good stewardship of the ocean,” Dr. Falefou said.

 According to the Secretary to the Tuvalu Government, the climate crisis has already threatened the baselines of Tuvalu’s EEZ, causing an eastward movement of the nation’s most important fish stocks. This, he said, is expected to move the centre of the fishery out of the EEZs of Pacific Island countries and into the high seas.

“It would be incredibly unjust if a problem, to which we have contributed so little, causes us to lose our most valuable national assets,” Dr. Falefou said.


Dr Falefau
Head of the National Delegation of Tuvalu, Dr. Tapugao Falefou.


The focus of the United Nations Ocean Conference on SDG14 provides an excellent set of targets for action, Tuvalu believes. But the Pacific island nation has taken issue with SDG14.5, which calls for them to conserve 10% of marine areas; as well as the more ambitious 30:30 initiative.

“Tuvalu’s goal, which has been largely achieved, is to ensure sustainable management of 100% of our waters. We have a wide range of local, national and regional arrangements to protect the fisheries resources of our waters,” Tuvalu’s Head of Delegation said.

“But we can see no purpose in closing an arbitrary percentage of deep ocean EEZ to commercial fishing when the resource is sustainable and both the fish stocks and the fleets that catch them are highly migratory. The effort is simply displaced to other areas, typically the high seas, which are not as well managed or controlled.”

 Another key theme of UNOC is partnership. Tuvalu acknowledged the vision of Pacific leaders to establish regional organisations to help manage the large areas of ocean granted by the Law of the Sea.

“Despite our small national budgets and limited capacity, we have worked together to combat IUU fishing and maintain profitable and sustainable fisheries in our EEZ. We have seen much slower progress in areas beyond national jurisdiction where it seems that appropriate fisheries and conservation measures take much longer to agree,” he said. “However we remain committed to our regional fisheries management organization Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) process.”

Tuvalu also acknowledged the Governments of Kenya and Portugal for co-hosting UNOC2022. Concluded Dr. Falefou: “We are living in tough and challenging times. Like other speakers, Tuvalu agrees that we must work together to save our Ocean for future generations. Tuvalu supports the adoption of the draft Political Declaration of the Conference.”

 The Second UN Ocean Conference is hosted in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 1 July 2022.  The Pacific Islands are represented by a strong contingent, which includes the Leaders from Fiji, Palau and Tonga.  Also present are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

For more on the UN Ocean Conference 2022 hosted in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 1 July please visit