The Pacific Oceansape initiative, approved by leaders at their Auckland summit last year, is one of the most ambitious marine management regimes ever contemplated.
It takes in 38 million square kilometres of ocean, including the high-seas pockets between the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones of Pacific Island nations.
Conservation International's Pacific Marine Program Manager Sue Miller-Taei says the Pacific Oceanscape intiative is very significant.
Presenter: Jemima Garrett
Presenter: Sue Miller-Taei, Conservation International's Pacific Marine Program Manager
MILLER-TAEI: I think it offers one of the first chances for this region to assume the leadership that it needs to manage our part of the Pacific Ocean and in fact, the Pacific Island countries and territories manage about 10% of the world's surface in terms of their Exclusive Economic Zones and the stewardship needed to manage this piece of ocean and the islands within them is absolutely urgent and fundamental to our survival.
GARRETT: So how will the Pacific Oceanscape framework help conservation in the Pacific?
MILLER-TAEI: Well firstly, in terms of the way its constructed, it's formed a very innovative partnership where governments, regional agencies and non-government agencies, like ourselves. I work for Conservation International have been working together for a number of years to work out what is needed and how it can be done. It also fosters leadership at the highest level, so the Pacific Oceanscape framework was endorsed by all Pacific Island Forum leaders, including Australia, including your prime minister in 2010 and is now under implementation and the Ocean Commissioner is in fact Nienie Slade, the head of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Secretariat.
GARRETT: So what will be the conservation priorities for the Pacific Oceanscape Framework?
MILLER-TAEI: They're local, national and regional level and they relate to commitments being made. The Pacific Oceanscape was inspired by Kiribati leader, Anote Tong and he based it on the success of the Phoenix Islands protected area, which is the Pacific Oceans largest marine protected area to date one we've worked on with Kiribati since 2005. He saw that there was a larger need than that site but he's committed the Phoenix Island Protecting area, to the Oceanscape and developed the framework for the region. And that's inspired other countries to make their commitments. For example, last year, Tokelau, Tokelau declared the entire EEZ. I think it's around just under 300,000 square kilometres essentially for whale sharks, turtles and dolphins. And at the same time, Prime Minister, Henry Puna, of the Cook Islands, declared their intent to create the Cook Islands Marine Park and in fact that's the largest declaration to date globally of any marine conservation initiative and is just over one million square kilometres and they are in full design phase now. So a key part of the Oceanscape is fostering resourcing and partnerships to support national commitments for those countries to improve and manage in an integrated way their Exclusive Economic Zones and part of that picture is increasing marine protected areas.
GARRETT: The Pacific Oceanscape Framework is also aiming to help Pacific Island countries adapt to climate change. How will it do that?
MILLER-TAEI: Well, there's a huge range of issues around climate change and to be fair the region and indeed globally is only really starting to deal with some of them and that's related to sea level warming and sea level rise. We haven't even begun to deal with the impacts and the potential loss and damage of issues such as ocean acidification. The Pacific Oceanscape recognises the importance of dealing with the impacts of climate and other environmental changes to the ocean and to improve management. It takes a common sense approach in terms of supporting marine protected areas, remove other stresses and you'll have a more resilient system to cope with the impacts of climate change. It also takes a key policy role in terms of recognising that things such as Exclusive Economic Zones in which many Pacific Island nations economies rely, for example, in terms of access to fees from tuna fishing. These EEZs are some what vulnerable when you look at international law to the impacts of climate change, low lying countries they lose their reef and their base line and their island potentially, that can flow through to the security of indeed of the EEZ. These are some of the policy initiatives that have been investigated. Because without that security of governance it's very difficult to move these issues forward.
GARRETT: Will the Pacific Oceanscape Framework make it easier for Pacific Island countries to get access to some of the big international funding bodies, such as the Global Environment Facility or the Clean Development Mechanism?
MILLER-TAEI: We certainly hope so and also to in terms of climate change and climate change impacts to put a fair and balanced approach on it and realise that yes, the global community and including our community needs to adapt and resources are needed for that. But particularly for the marine environment. We believe there's some serious potential limits to adaptation and particularly for issues such as a acidification. The scenarios for those acidification levels are worrisome in terms of slowing and stopping coral growth and eventually killing coral growth and these issues need to be looked at, not just from an adaptation point of view, because there will be limits, but perhaps more from a loss and damage point of view, which I think will led to a whole new global debate about the impacts of climate change.