PIF’s Puna: Caring for ocean is our obligation


Common stewardship of the maritime resources and the manifold initiatives towards the preservation of the ocean as well as the looming threat of the discharge of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean have been at the forefront of the conversation as Pacific Islands Forum secretary general Henry Puna welcomed participants to the Blue Climate Initiative Summit in French Polynesia this week.

“The very nature of our ocean implies, that any action in our own waters can, and will have, transboundary impacts on other countries, and to our global commons.  The Pacific, for instance, is currently dealing with the proposed release of potentially hazardous nuclear waste-water, into the Pacific Ocean,” said Puna.

Tokyo Electric Power Company was recently reported to have begun the massive undertaking of digging underwater to build an outlet from which to discharge the 1.25 million tons of treated wastewater contaminated by the meltdowns in its own power plant in Fukushima caused by the earthquake-tsunami disaster of 2011.

Puna said, “Interestingly, in a time when we  require people to vaccinate to protect themselves and others, why are we unable to require one State, to exercise precaution and due regard, to the rights of other States?”

Puna undescored their role as stewards of the Blue Pacific. “Caring for the ocean you see, and its resources, is not just our moral duty. It is our obligation under international law.”

Puna also pointed out the need for a robust ocean governance framework in place “that provides guiding parameters but does not restrict the ability or flexibility of Island States, to realise their development aspirations. These need to be in place, both within and beyond national jurisdictions.”

Moreover, he also announced the major initiatives that are gaining traction this year.

Puna said that the development of a treaty on plastics is firming up this year and that there will be a major announcement of other key initiatives as well.

“We will adopt an important treaty on biodiversity in international waters, later this year; we will adopt a new framework for biodiversity and we will advance the ocean-climate nexus dialogue. We will finally eradicate subsidies, that contribute to IUU (illegal, unreported, and unregulated) fishing in our waters,” he said.

Puna said they do not take lightly their stewardship responsibility over the vast swath of the Pacific Ocean covering 20% of the planet’s surface. Given the plethora of the challenges, he highlighted how critical partnerships are to their common causes.

“In the face of the challenges before us, we continue to work together to search for collective solutions, that respond to our unique vulnerabilities. One such initiative is the Pacific Resilience Facility – the first Pacific designed, led and owned initiative, that will provide communities with direct access to financing, that will ensure that existing and/or new community-level projects, consider and prepare for the increasing risks of climate-induced, and other natural hazard risk disasters,” he said.

The Blue Climate Summit runs until May 20.

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