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The Pacific Community and Ocean Science
Statement by Dr Audrey Aumua, SPC Deputy Director-General
11th Conference of the Pacific Community on Oceans and Sustainable Development
For the people of the Pacific, the ocean is intertwined with every aspect of life. The connection we have to our ocean is part of our common history, and will be key to our region’s future. The national and regional development goals that we share- The Samoa Pathway, The Framework for Pacific Regionalism, The Sustainable Development Goals, The Blue Pacific narrative- Each depends on a healthy and sustainable ocean.
But increasingly we are seeing how the impacts of climate change are threatening our ocean and as a result our very identity. Cultural, genealogical and spiritual connections to the land and sea are at risk from long-term sea-level rise, the impacts of extreme weather events, saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers, loss of coastal wetlands, higher water temperatures and changes in ocean currents, loss of crops from saltwater inundation, changes in fisheries distribution due ocean warming, and damage to coral reefs due to acidification.
Pacific Island countries and territories are collective custodians of 20% of the world’s exclusive economic zones. The scale of this geography, the global recognition of the strategic and economic importance of oceans, and global power shifts have placed the Pacific at the centre of global geopolitics. Our region is therefore well placed to leverage this and become a global leader in catalysing sustainable development action. We are already demonstrating how ocean science and data can provide the basis for a sustainable future. But there is still much more to do as we still have many challenges that require more science together with optimising the cultural knowledge of our communities to respond to these risks.
Our National governments, international and regional organisations and Pacific communities require accessible and adaptable technical information based in rigorous science applied in the context of this region to make evidence-based decisions for the sustainable management of ocean resources and for enhancing the ecosystem services the ocean provides to the communities and economies of the region.
Oceanic and coastal fisheries are critical in providing the primary or secondary source of income for up to 50 per cent of coastal households. But strategic management of these essential resources requires detailed scientific monitoring including in the context of modelling biomass distributions under different climate change scenarios.
The sustainable management of the Blue Pacific will require ecosystem-based management, integrated coastal and marine management, and marine spatial planning. These require detailed information at various ecological and socio-economic levels and the use of simulation models and software-based decision support tools to develop geospatial information for marine protected areas.
And these are just some of the challenges we must face.
SPC has been your organisation that has led on many of these tasks on your behalf. We have been yours and the regions premier organisation for the exploration and development of scientific and technical solutions to our regions greatest challenges.
We have worked with you our members in gathering statistical information and data on fisheries, geosciences, climate adaption, maritime, and more. With your support, SPC has implemented and monitored ocean resilience and adaption projects across the Pacific which are making a positive impact on the lives of Pacific people. The coming decade offers us an opportunity to make SPC the globally recognized coordinating and implementing body for Pacific Ocean science. Building on our already extensive library of knowledge to create driving force for a sustainable future.
If we hope to realize our vision of the Blue Pacific we must move beyond thinking of climate change as a poorly defined threat to our region, and seek to better understand the extent, nature and severity of that threat through scientific and technical studies, data and interpretation.
The threat we face is immediate, but the solutions will require a long term strategic response, strong partnerships, and regional approaches. SPC, and our CROP partners are ready to support our members and help make the upcoming ‘Decade of Ocean Science’, a decade of Pacific leadership.