The Pacific will join other countries and their peoples to celebrate World Oceans Day on 8th June 2014. Events are planned around the world to celebrate and honour the ocean, which for Pacific peoples links us all, economically, socially, environmentally and importantly, culturally. The theme for this year’s World Oceans Day is ‘Together we have the power to protect the ocean’.
At an event hosted by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, to mark the occasion, the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade said “For the Pacific region, our understanding of the ocean and the integral role that it plays in sustaining life, economies and societies is well known.” He added the need to recognise the notion of the ocean being a resource shared by all, and commended the theme of World Oceans Day, and the importance of working in partnership.
2014 is a pivotal year for oceans and the Pacific region. “The Ocean: Life and Future” will be the theme of this year’s annual Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting to be held in Palau in July. Oceans will also be a dominant topic for discussion at the United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States to be held in Samoa this September. The second day of the conference will focus specifically on Oceans. These events will inform the ongoing work to develop the new, UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which come into effect in 2016. The Pacific is advocating that one of the SDGs specifically recognise oceans as a priority for sustainable development, given the immense value and importance of the ocean to Pacific Island Countries and Territories.
There are many reasons for the Pacific to cement the ocean as a global priority into the future. The Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water on the planet and hosts some of its’ richest marine ecosystems. Almost ninety-eight percent of the Pacific Islands region is ocean, and as a result the Ocean and its extensive resources remain central to the lives and future prosperity of Pacific Island people. Pacific Island Countries and Territories demonstrate unprecedented ocean leadership such as innovative management measures for some of the largest and healthiest remaining tuna stocks in the world.
The Pacific Ocean Commissioner is an influential advocate for improved cooperation, coordination and collaboration in the region, for the sustainable use, management and governance of the Pacific Ocean and its resources. In 2014, the primary focus of the Pacific Ocean Commission will be on building a strong alliance and raising awareness of the main issues, challenges and opportunities facing the region and its countries and territories.
“The ocean provides commercial, cultural, recreational, economic, scientific, conservation and security benefits, and sustains diverse habitats and species of local and global significance. It can also pose immense challenges such as sea level rise, storm surges and tsunamis, which can result in disasters that impact the social, economic and environmental fabric of countries and their communities” says Mr Slade.