Representatives from Hawaii, New Zealand, Guam, Alaska, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas and Indian nation tribes are attending.
They will be looking at the impact of climate change on their communities and how traditional ecological knowledge can be used to protect their environments.
Presenter: Wayne Shields
Speaker: Manuel Duenas, chair of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council and president of the Guam Fishermen's Co-operative Association
DUENAS: It's all about climate change but also there's other issues that affect our different island communities but this is the first time we're ever getting together as Pacific Island natives and American natives in one symposium. So it's a landmark event and that's something we're really looking forward to.
SHIELDS: So what do you all have in common?
DUENAS: Well we all live by the ocean, we're all coastal communities and for the most part the only thing we can do to combat climate change is actually move inland, but as we know modern development and everything else, we can't easily do that. So a lot of our cultures depend on the ocean resources or marine resources adjacent to our coastal communities, so with that in mind we have to address those issues and try to live with it as time continues and climate change continues.
SHIELDS: Can you give us a few examples or just one actual example of a problem facing coastal indigenous people?
DUENAS: Yes one is the sea level rise and how it affects our coastal communities as the ocean creeps up on our areas, especially in Pacific Islands were our sea level is really detrimental to our existence because a lot of our islands are low-lying and the highest point on some islands are only a few feet or a few metres. So that would impact our communities and we have to be relocated. And the sad reality is that we're not major contributors to climate change and global warming, however we're the recipients of the impact.
SHIELDS: Manuel are there people being physically affected at the moment though? Are there people having to make decisions on their livelihood and the way they live and perhaps thinking about moving right now?
DUENAS: Yes there are a few communities throughout the Pacific, especially throughout Micronesia where a lot of the islands like I said only a few metres above sea level. And any type of sea level rise will greatly impact. And that's why we're appreciative that we're in this forum with the native American Indians because they too are very dependent on the coastal waters for their livelihood and their cultural survival. And that's the main thing, it's cultural survival for all our communities because as Pacific islanders and as native users we need that resource in our ocean. However if the ocean's creeping up on us it's going to greatly impact how we live tomorrow as a nation or as a group of people.
SHIELDS: It's not just going to affect you in terms of where you live but it's also going to affect your food supply, and there are some examples of that being discussed as well?
DUENAS: Yes it's a whole slew and actually we're taking the punt that it's climate of change, not just climate change because we have to address other issues that impact us on the US level, because like I said the impacts of not only sea level rise but you get ocean acidification that affects our marine resources, and then you have the protection for example the corals throughout the Pacific and how that would impact our coastal communities as we change from not being able to harvest our resource on the shorelines of our coastal areas.
SHIELDS: So you come from a fisheries management background. Give us an example of how climate change has had an impact on fisheries?
DUENAS: Well on fisheries there's more of a larger scale throughout the Pacific depending on which type of fisheries you're looking at. If you're looking at the coral reef species, a lot of our coral reefs are suffering from again coral bleaching and acidification and sea level rise and sea level receding actually in some areas. So our coral reefs are dying so therefore there's no habitat for our reef fish. On the more Pacific wide area, a range you're talking about tunas or the pelagic fish that are no longer available within our waters because they've moved to the other current zones, La Nina and El Nino, they move to the other side of the Pacific, so our communities are left with not having these resources readily available on their actual seasonal runs around our islands, major impact either way.
SHIELDS: Absolutely and climate change is something that the entire world is trying to come to grips with and deal with, but what are some of the traditional management ideas that your group are getting together and discussing?
DUENAS: Well that's what this exercise is all about, it's actually sharing ideas, sharing experiences and some groups have actually are way ahead of the game and actually have presented solutions to some of their problems that we can adapt in our Pacific Island region and how we can best solve. But the major factor is that we can only do what is available to us. We're looking at further assistance to include coastal communities and input from our coastal areas as far as getting assistance and getting recognition, because we have been observers of the ocean for hundreds of years. And the sad reality is that too often there's a national regime that would say well this is what's best for you. However that's not the case. We know what we need to get done and too often we don't have the financial capabilities of addressing these issues.
SHIELDS: How long is the symposium running for Manuel?
DUENAS: Running for four days; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It's full days of symposium and discussion among all the Pacific Island nations or island groups and native American Indians. So we're looking forward to great dialogue and hopefully we have outcomes that would facilitate some sort of solution and recommend to the national government how we should best address these issues. Again we prefer to work on the issues from a ground-up approach, rather than a top down approach.