An oceans’ expert is supportive of the Kiribati Government’s for its plan to open the Phoenix Island Protected Area, or the PIPA, to commercial fishing.

Part of the justification for the PIPA being established was to protect spawning grounds for tuna.

But Hugh Govan, who specialises in ocean governance and helped draft the Pacific Oceanscape, said marine sanctuaries are not the best way to save migratory species.

He said the PIPA agreement included the establishment of a tuna working group and its assessment triggered the Kiribati Government announcement.

“They looked at it and it is not actually serving the cost effective purpose in conserving tuna. They are losing money, so therefore they are applying best practice in terms of adaptive management. They are going to change to conservation in that part of the ocean,” Govan said.

“We don’t know yet what it will look like but it sounds like a really well thought out scientific justified approach.”

The Kiribati Government has always maintained that it wants to maintain the PIPA’s conservation values and it now believes the best way to do this is by Marine Spatial Planning.

Marine Spatial Planning aims to balance, social, environmental and economic objectives and Govan backs this approach in the PIPA.

“And so a Marine Spatial Planning approach would involve looking at all the threats, looking at all the current uses and negotiating, figuring out what the best management actions would be,” Govan said.

“As I mentioned for tuna very unlikely that protected areas would be a suitable tool – for mangroves a protected area or a proportion of a protected area is often considered to be a very good tool.”

Govan said to protect sea mounts other systems can be put in place, though he said they wouldn’t be troubled by purse seine fishing.

And a similar approach can be talk to the reefs in the PIPA system.

He also believes the push in the Pacific for 30 percent of the land and sea to be in reserve by 2030 is not a workable concept.

This story was published at RNZ Pacific on 2 December 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.


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