High Hopes for High Seas!

When I took on the role of Pacific Ocean Commissioner in December last year, I was humbled and somewhat daunted at the prospect — being a highlander from Papua New Guinea growing up far from the sea. However, the ocean is central to everything we do. It is our culture, our livelihood, our economy and, for many, the ocean is the mother of all things.

The centrality of the ocean in our lives was underscored at our inaugural Pacific Ocean Alliance meeting held in Suva, Fiji, 25-27 May 2015. As Pacific Ocean Commissioner, it is my job to facilitate this multi-stakeholder alliance of national, regional and international partners.

It was thrilling to share the sheer depth of feeling and passion for the ocean displayed by more than 120 participants, as well as their determination to ensure our aquatic home is protected and its dwindling resources managed sustainably.

More than 70% of the planet is covered by water and almost a third of the globe, more than 155 million square miles is covered by the mighty Pacific Ocean, so its benefits range far beyond Pacific Island States, which makes it essential that there be agreement on regional and global approaches to ocean management.

Agreements between countries are important but local and national efforts are key, as some issues are best addressed by communities and their national governments, such as coastal-zone management and land-based pollution.

However, effective and sustainable management of ocean activities within our sovereign areas must be matched by management of high-seas areas, which currently sees far too much international friction. Our approaches must be consistent and integrated, because the stakes are high as these contested high-seas parts of the ocean contain much of the world’s fish, which provides a declining source of protein for the planet’s growing population.

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