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Celebrating sustainable initiatives in the Pacific…Samoa implements "Ocean Strategy"

Sabrina Habu is an Australia Awards scholarship recipient and also happens to be the latest addition to the Pacific Legal Network (PLN) team in Sydney. A key focus of her legal studies is environmental law and this week she looks at some Pacific initiatives close to her heart.

Beyond the beautiful beaches and the romantic getaways for many around the world, the Pacific Island nations are at the forefront of an often unseen form of suffering: the consequences of climate change. The island nations of the Pacific’s contribution to damaging greenhouse gases is negligible, yet it’s well established that we are the ones who endure the significant impacts of what those emissions do to our planet’s climate.

With this in mind, as a Pacific Islander it always makes me very proud when one of our island neighbours takes a stand that sets an example for the rest of the world. According to David Attenborough, overfishing of the Pacific and other oceans is one of our time’s most glaring unchecked examples of the human populations’ unsustainable lust for wild harvest. With some estimates placing the Earth’s marine fish stocks at either 90% exploited, overexploited or depleted and a global fishing industry which lacks a unified regulatory regime, something needs to change. That’s why when the small island nation of Palau became one of the first countries in the world to pass legislation (named the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act 2015) to protect 80% of the country’s oceans and in doing so, set aside the largest percentage of protected marine territory of any nation in the world – I was immensely proud. In recent weeks, we learned that Palau’s move has influenced other island nations such as Samoa to pledge to protect 30% of its ocean with the view of ensuring sustainability marine practices persist.

When the Palauans restricted fishing in almost all of its waters, the fish population grew rapidly, with fish spilling into other unprotected areas open to fishing. Not only is this approach sustainable, it also helps with the fish’s life cycle. Palau has also implemented various strategies to protect the land, its culture and its future generations. Palau in December 2017 enacted a new immigration policy in the form of a Pledge for outsiders to abide by before entering the country. The government and children of Palau worked on the Pledge hand in hand with the aim of preserving Palau’s vibrant culture and environment.

The Pledge is a promise for environmental conservation stamped onto all visitors’ passports and must be signed by all upon arrival in the country. This initiative was implemented to stop careless behaviours from visitors eroding Palau’s pristine environment and the negative impacts that behaviour was having on Palauan culture. If people are found in breach of this Pledge, fines may be awarded of up to 1 million USD!

I’m so pleased to see that with some inspiration from the Palauan’s actions on marine conservation, Samoa has taken a similarly bold action by implementing its “Ocean Strategy”. The Samoan Government has partnered with the Blue Prosperity Coalition and Conservation International to support the implementation of the strategy. The Samoa Ocean Strategy delivers a comprehensive pathway to sustainable management of Samoa’s ocean and marine resources. For example, it defines prioritized thematic areas that encompass the ecological, cultural and socioeconomic values that Samoans derive from their ocean.

Hopefully, with time, our friends in Samoa too can show the rest of the world the benefits of preserving our oceans.


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