WHAT FIJI PACEM IN MARIBUS OCEAN TALKS AGREED ON

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Saturday, November 13, 1999

SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 13, 1999 – Fiji’s Daily Post)--The Pacem in Maribus (Peace in the Oceans) Conference held at the University of the South Pacific in Suva came to a successful conclusion yesterday with the Fiji Declaration on Islands in the Pacific.

The 187 participants from 30 countries have agreed on the following matters.

CONCLUSIONS

Peoples of the Pacific are custodians of some 33 million square kilometers (13.2 square miles) of the Pacific Ocean, approximately one twelfth of the Earth's ocean space.

Yet the 22 states and territories with a total population of almost seven million occupy less than 5,000 square kilometers (2,000 square miles) of this space.

The Pacific Islands, whose intricate knowledge of navigation and of their ocean and coastal environment is woven into the very fabric of their culture and language, have settled the Pacific Islands over the last three and half thousand years.

At no time in the past have they faced greater challengers and opportunities than those prevalent on the eve of the new millennium.

The theme for the conference was Oceans in the New Millennium: Challengers and Opportunities for the Islands.

The conference examined challengers and opportunities, for the world’s island nations since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and the Barbados Declaration, both of which have enormous implications for the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) worldwide, and specifically for the Small Island Developing States of the Pacific.

At the dawn of the new millennium SIDS are faced with many challenges and opportunities, challenges, some of which are beyond their control, and opportunities, which may give hope for their future.

A burgeoning human population, pollution of inshore waters, over fishing, unregulated coastal development, climate change and potential sea-level rise threaten the people's livelihoods and, indeed, the very survival of their fragile island states.

BOUNDARY ISSUES IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC

For many island states, their EEZs represent their most significant sources of future wealth and security.

As Parties to UNCLOS, they have an obligation to survey their EEZs and other maritime zones, e.g., the territorial sea.

Those states with EEZ boundaries that still need to be delimited should enter into negotiations with their neighboring states as soon as practicable with a view to reaching agreement on finalized boundaries.

The EEZ regimes under UNCLOS also form the framework for negotiation of agreements on the management and conservation of South Pacific tuna stocks, which supply 50 percent of the world's canned tuna market.

Pacific island states have the right to participate in the harvest of the resources and to expect other participants to ensure that the total harvest is sustainable, and that stocks are protected.

Island States have expressed concern over the trans-boundary shipment of hazardous, toxic or high level radioactive waste.

RESTRUCTURING OF THE REGIONAL SEAS PROGRAMME

There is a need to restructure the Regional Seas Programme in line with major changes in the UN system and to ensure its responsiveness to regional priorities.

The sectoral approach needs to be changed to a cross- sectoral approach that integrates land, water, and ecosystem management, and the overriding concept of sustainable development needs to be incorporated.

The focus needs to be placed on a system of individual countries adopting policy, institutional, and legal reforms necessary to implement the sectoral, integrated approach.

For the island states, there is also a need to develop regional marine technology ventures where appropriate technology development and transfer can be facilitated.

Human capacity development and institution building must underpin any such technology transfer.

The Pacific Island states have demonstrated a high degree of success in regional cooperation in the higher education sector.

The University of the South Pacific, which manifests this regional cooperation, provides a ready base as well as excellent prospects for a regional center for marine scientific and technological research and development, as mandated under UNCLOS.

TRADITIONAL MARINE TENURE AND THE EMPOWERMENT OF RESOURCE OWNERS

Coastal resources in most island states are under various forms of indigenous ownership.

With the advent of a cash economy and the imposition of inappropriate "modern" resource management systems, there is an urgent need to develop co-management mechanisms in which the indigenous owners in partnership with other major social development factors can play a key role in the sustainable management of their resources.

International Seabed Authority and Deep Sea Mining in the South Pacific Deep sea mining has the potential to be a major issue for SIDS, and a number of the South Pacific states have valuable mineral deposits within their territorial waters and EEZs.

Island states could play a major role in the development of mechanisms whereby their people will benefit from the long-term benefits of deep-sea mining within their EEZs.

In particular it is very important that regional organizations play a coordinating role in offshore mineral development.

Although PICs (Pacific Island Countries) have mineral potential they lack offshore mineral policy and legislation, which should be implemented.

The importance of marine scientific research and the knowledge gathered so far and the part that it will play in the future should be highlighted.

THE OCEANIC ENVIRONMENT

Ocean observation systems are important in the vast ocean areas surrounding SIDS.

These ocean systems drive the world’s climate, and in turn the SIDS are highly vulnerable to the long-term effects of climate change and sea level rise.

The frequency of cyclones and El Niño - Southern Oscillation are changing, and the Ocean Observation Systems as a means of improving our understanding of the world's climate are important.

SIDS have little capacity for participation in Ocean Observation Systems, and need to find mechanisms whereby they can participate and benefit from them.

REGIONAL SECURITY

SIDS have little capacity for surveillance and enforcement of their rules and regulations in their vast EEZs and continental shelves.

This problem can only be solved through enhanced monitoring, surveillance, and control program.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS

SIDS are particularly vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters.

Risk management and disaster preparedness and mitigation is an integral part of integrated ocean and coastal and coastal management.

It should be pursued both on a regional and national basis.

MARINE BIODIVERSITY AND BIOPROSPECTING

In their marine ecosystems SIDS are custodians of some of the world's most important biodiversity.

The obligations towards the protection of this biodiversity are a priority under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

In exploiting their tuna resource, island states need to ensure conservation of marine biodiversity by issuing licenses for equipment that minimizes death of by-catch species.

Since most of the coral reefs are under the ownership of the people there is an onus placed upon them to ensure their protection for future generations.

Bioprospecting of tropical marine organisms is a fast growing trend, with developed nations seeking discoveries of biologically active compounds from marine organisms of SIDS.

The island peoples are seeking mechanisms whereby they can protect their intellectual property rights, and whereby they can benefit from them in a sustainable manner.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fiji Live.

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