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Action on oceans in advance of the Pacific Islands Forum

7 September 2017

The Secretary-General and a team of specialists from the Commonwealth are in Apea, Samoa, to attend meetings in advance of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting, which takes place on Friday, 8th September.  Here are some highlights from the week:

Blue Charter for oceans

A blue charter to guide oceans development is being prepared by the Commonwealth Secretariat, as part of a wider effort to promote sustainability.

“The blue charter is based on principles in the Charter of the Commonwealth,” said Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary-General.

It has particular relevance for small island states, whose main territorial assets are the oceans and their exclusive economic zones.

The charter will promote responsible and sustainable use of the oceans.

It will be put into action through principles agreed upon by governments, toolkits for managers, and information sharing hubs.

The charter is one of several Commonwealth initiatives being promoted by the Secretary-General, who is in Apia, Samoa for the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting.

Launch of Pacific 2050 report

The report A Sustainable Future for Small States: Pacific 2050 has been released by the Commonwealth at the 48th Pacific Islands Forum being held this week in Apia, Samoa.

“The Pacific 2050 report promotes innovative approaches to ocean governance,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who is attending the Forum.

The study examines current development strategies in the Pacific islands region and assesses whether they are on the right track.

While some Commonwealth small states might achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the report notes that others will miss their SDGs even by 2050.

The Pacific 2050 report calls for improvements in key areas.  These include strengthening political will, addressing data challenges, strengthening governance at all levels; establishing effective partnerships; securing sustainable finance; enhancing capacity development, and accounting for population dynamics.

Cooperate against illegal fishing

Pacific Island countries need to work together to eliminate the threat posed by illegal fishing, says a panel on marine activity in the region.

The use of monitoring tools on licensed fishing vessels, such as fisheries observers, and satellite tracking systems, are good for monitoring those who play by the rules.

But some operators operate illegally, slipping in and out a country’s waters undetected.

“With the additional pressures of climate change, the threats posed by illegal fishing are too high to ignore,” said the Commonwealth’s Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland. “The long-term survival of the Pacific’s fish stocks are at stake. We need to come together and share intelligence.”

While most Pacific Island countries do some surveillance of their own waters, they are often reluctant to share information because of commercial and other sensitivities. This can lead to gaps in coverage or understanding of a problem that affects the region as a whole.

“Thankfully however, countries are increasingly understanding the need for greater collaboration in order to combat what is becoming a progressively more difficult problem for Pacific countries to face on their own,” the Secretary-General said.

Through sharing information, suspicious behaviour by a vessel in one place can be cross-checked with its actions in other places to build a more complete picture.

The Commonwealth will continue to collaborate with regional organisations to assist countries in drawing up agreements to share information.

The panel discussion was among the activities leading up to the 48th Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in Apia, Samoa on Friday 8 September. The Commonwealth is an Observer at the PIF.

The theme for this year’s meeting is The Blue Pacific - Our sea of islands - Our security through sustainable development, management and conservation.

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