- Another impressive milestone for the PacWaste project
- New partnership promises positive outcomes for whale conservation
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Another impressive milestone for the PacWaste project
1 October 2014, Majuro, Marshall Islands – This evening in Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, the PacWaste project secured ongoing commitment and participation from participating Pacific island countries at the project’s second official Steering Committee Meeting.
PacWaste is a four-year, €7.85m project funded by the European Union and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), to improve regional hazardous waste management across the Pacific in the priority areas of healthcare waste, asbestos waste, E-waste and integrated atoll waste management.
At the meeting, Pacific island and donor agency representatives attending the 25th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme had the opportunity to learn about outcomes from the project’s first year and to guide future project activities.
At the opening of the meeting, SPREP Director General Mr David Sheppard thanked the European Union for its ongoing support to better protect the health of Pacific communities and the fragile environments found in the Pacific region from the impacts of hazardous wastes.
Items discussed included the current management, challenges and issues in the Pacific region connected with management of E-waste and healthcare waste. SPREP’s PacWaste Project Manager, Mr Stewart Williams, presented the results from regional baseline surveys for these waste types that have recently been undertaken, providing the PacWaste team with an encouraging range of intervention options to discuss and prioritise.
“Survey data will allow the PacWaste team to provide the best possible solutions to healthcare waste disposal over the longer term” said Dr David Haynes, Director of Waste Management and Pollution control at SPREP. “It will also allow ongoing targeted training in best practice infection control and healthcare waste handling that will provide hospital ward staff with a safer working environment.”
Also discussed were the results of the assessment of Majuro’s solid integrated waste management and priority interventions for atoll waste management. This project component will assist the remote Pacific atoll community to implement recycling programmes that will help prevent the accumulation of waste into the future.
Though still in its infancy, PacWaste has already demonstrated its fundamental value to the health and wellbeing of the Pacific people and environment. Through PacWaste, emergency interventions to protect community health have already been carried out in Fiji, Samoa and Nauru to prevent continued dangerous asbestos exposure identified through the ongoing regional PacWaste asbestos baseline survey.
New partnership promises positive outcomes for whale conservation
30 September 2014, Majuro, Marshall Islands – A new collaboration between SPREP and the International Whaling Commission (IWC) looks set to deliver benefits in the areas of whale conservation and welfare in the Pacific region. These benefits were highlighted yesterday at a special ‘Year of the Whale’ side event as part of the 25th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme in Majuro, Marshall Islands.
Over the past decade or more, several SPREP Members have declared their waters as whale sanctuaries and encouraged research projects on humpback whales, which annually migrate between summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic Ocean and over-wintering breeding grounds in the Pacific region.
At the side event, Mr David Mattila (Technical Adviser – Human Impact Reduction at the IWC) explained that the IWC’s Scientific Committee recently completed an assessment of the data collected by the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, and confirmed that the Oceania humpback population has turned the corner from near-extinction and is now trending toward recovery, making it one of the world’s great conservation success stories. Humpbacks are also a valuable tourist attraction, recently estimated to be worth $5 million annually to Tonga alone.
Although the threat of hunting may have receded, whales are now facing new threats, including entanglement in fishing gear and other marine debris. The IWC conducts training for both members and non-members in safely disentangling whales, and recently held a successful workshop in Tonga.
Mr Mattila explained that scarring on the bodies of humpback whales indicates that a significant proportion of animals – perhaps more than a quarter – have become entangled in fishing gear such as lobster pots, longlines or gill nets at some stage in their lives. Safely disentangling whales requires training and specialist equipment, which is now available in Tonga and Vanuatu.
Participants also discussed ideas for the proposed ‘2016/17 Year of the Whale’ in the Pacific island region. Mr Mike Donoghue, Threatened and Migratory Species Adviser at SPREP, reports that there was an enthusiasm on the part of many SPREP Members to participate in conservation actions for whales including further investigations into whale migration routes, the responsible management of whale-watching and the possible impacts of climate change. Other suggestions included further training in managing whale strandings and entanglement, investigating and mitigating possible impacts of seismic surveys and deep sea mining on whales and establishing protected areas for whales.
For more information, please contact Mike Donoghue at SPREP.