Mr Lasse Melgaard, World Bank, South Pacific Resident Representative (L) and Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor & President.
A panel discussion on healthy oceans took place at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus in partnership with the World Bank Group on 15 July 2019.
The event was the first of a series called Future Pasifika to debate development issues facing the Pacific region, which was streamed worldwide from the University,
The panel discussion featured Mr Justin Hunter, the founder of J. Hunter Pearls and Oceans Advocate; Maureen Penjueli, Coordinator of the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG); Dr. Stuart Kininmonth, USP senior lecturer in Marine Studies; and Ms Zakiyyah Ali, Project Survival Pacific representative.
Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor & President welcomed everyone to this extremely significant interactive discussion on a topic which is of utmost relevance. He said USP is honoured to be hosting the first USP-World Bank Future Pasifika Dialogue at the University.
“At a global level, we live on an ocean planet, accounting for 71% of the surface area and this has absorbed the majority of climate change heat in the margins of 90% of total extra heat in the last 50 years. This poses a major threat to oceans as the biggest resource for our region and the time for action for mitigation is now,” he stated.
Professor Ahluwalia said the oceans' fish life is suffering from over fishing, as 30% of species are critically over fished.
“The issue of sustainability is vital as a majority of communities in the Pacific region rely heavily on fish and other oceans resources for subsistence and commercial purposes,” he stated.
He added that pollution, including plastics, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, petroleum products and fertilisers, are causing long term changes in all ocean systems.
“We need to raise awareness on the responsible use and disposal of these as the seas and oceans are not the rightful place for such items to end up – it seriously distorts the oceans ecosystem and impedes the reproductive capacity of sea lives,” he said.
Mr Lasse Melgaard, World Bank, South Pacific Resident Representative said the event is a first step in a new partnership with USP, World Bank and the International Finance Corporation.
Part of the audience that turned up for the inaugural Pacific dialogue series at USP.
He said the term Future Pasifika was chosen via crowd sourcing where 170,000 followers of the World Bank Pacific Facebook page were asked to suggest appropriate names.
“So it was chosen in a highly democratic manner and we are delighted about that. The partnership is also reflection of the World Bank Group’s commitment to working with partners and institutions like USP, not just on projects and technical issues but also on initiatives that foster dialogue and draws on the expertise in the region,” Mr Melgaar added.
During discussions, Dr Stuart said climate change is only just starting to show its effects in the Pacific.
“We are still seeing small changes and not really dramatic whereas the storm on the horizon is that it is approaching and it will get much worse. So during that period we need to start looking at domestic issues like overfishing and trying to get our reefs resilient,” he said.
During the panel discussion, Mr Hunter said in order to see commitment and real change, it is imperative to get the private engaged in terms creating economic returns and conservation together.
On deep-sea mining, Ms Penjueli said there is very little that can be referenced about it and the subject is not quite understood.
“During the mining process, business are after the minerals and do not realise the negative impacts it has on the oceans. Every year science is giving us new data on the complexities of these areas.
So we are only learning and yet industry is already propositioning that this is going to be small scale, but of high value and little impact – they already are making these kinds of broad pronouncements which are very problematic,” she shared.
Ms Zakhia said that according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, and estimated 70 per cent of the planet’s fish stock has either been overused, fully used or are in critical condition.
“It is quite shocking to think that very soon fish will no longer be a staple part of our diet. Its concerning and its all the more reason why Government inaction needs to turn into action,” she stated.
The panel took place in front of a live audience, with questions invited from attendees and online viewers through Facebook and Twitter.
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