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Working together to protect marine species in the Pacific

To address the critical issues and threats to marine species, SPREP has worked with Members and partners to develop the Pacific RMSP.

A five-day meeting organised by the SPREP Island and Ocean Ecosystems Programme officially convened last week, to review the new Pacific Regional Marine Species Programme (RMSP) 2022-2026.  This will provide SPREP Members and partners the opportunity to both updates and be informed about the latest research and conservation action happening in the region. 

The Pacific Ocean, which covers one-third of the Earth’s surface, is the largest continuous marine habitat on the planet. It is home to key marine species such as dugongs, turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks, rays and seabirds, which play significant ecological roles in the functioning of coastal and oceanic habitats and ecosystems. 

The contribution of these species to ecosystem services and livelihoods is increasingly under threat, and the protection and recovery of their populations are critical for maintaining the healthy Pacific Ocean. 

Our marine species face a wide and increasing range of ongoing, human-induced threats to their survival, such as overfishing, fisheries by-catch and entanglement in abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear, illegal hunting, uncontrolled coastal development, the impacts of climate change and new threats such as those from deep-sea mining.  

Stuart Chape, Acting Deputy Director General – Technical Programmes and Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) Island and Ocean Ecosystems Programme, said, “Marine species are also recognised as being a fundamental element of Pacific islands culture and heritage. Many island cultures have legends, stories, and traditional uses of marine species, which highlight the importance of these animals to people’s identities, way of life, and heritage.”

“Many marine species in our region are threatened or endangered.  In this respect, we can regard marine species as messengers of the impacts on the health of ocean and coastal ecosystems, and the protection and, where necessary, recovery of populations of migratory species is critically linked to maintaining a healthy Pacific Ocean.”

To address these critical issues and threats SPREP has worked with Members and partners to develop the Pacific Regional Marine Species Programme (RMSP) 2022-2026, which replaces the Pacific Islands Regional Marine Species Programme 2013-2017. 

The RMSP will expand upon the previous programme, which was dedicated to the memory of Lui Bell, former SPREP Threatened and Migratory Species Adviser, who dedicated his professional life to the conservation of marine species in the region. Bell passed away in 2012 yet remains a beacon for marine conservation in the Pacific region, and will continue to do so. 

The overall vision of the RMSP is “A healthy Pacific Ocean with thriving populations of whales, dolphins, marine turtles, dugongs, sharks and rays, and seabirds, and the associated ecosystems on which they depend, which assures the aspirations of Pacific Island peoples and protects their natural and cultural heritage”.

The five action plans under review that comprise the overall programme cover Dugongs, Seabirds, Marine Turtles, Sharks and Rays, and Whales and Dolphins.  Each action plan covers nine themes: Research and Monitoring, Climate Change, Ecosystems and Habitat Protection, Threat Reduction, Cultural Significance and Value, Legislation, Policy and Management, Ecotourism and Livelihoods, Capacity Building and Collaboration and Education, Awareness and Communication. 

“Not only are we failing to address critical existing issues, but we have also failed to learn our lessons, as it seems we are about to embark on the systematic destruction of deep-sea ecosystems through mining, with unknown consequences for many species that inhabit these poorly understood deep-sea environments, including migratory whales and sharks,” Chape concluded. The meetings will run from 28 July to 03 August 2021 and will cover each of the five action plans under the RMSP.

This story was produced by Leannem, published at SPREP on 29 July 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.

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