Reducing Ocean Threats, a global challenge

An analysis of data collected by fisheries observers between 2003 and 2015 from purse-seine fishing vessels and analysed by SPREP has indicated over 10,000 pollution incidents that happened at sea during this time. These include the disposal of plastic and other waste into the ocean and oil spills as well as dumping or loss of fishing gear.

This reality was raised at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii this month during a special panel on Reducing Ocean Threats at the Pacific Ocean Summit. The panel was moderated by Mr Kosi Latu, Director General of SPREP and included Mayor Alan Arakawa of Maui County, Hawaii and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, of Solomon Islands.
Ocean WastePlastics comprise between 60 and 80 percent of the marine debris in all of the worlds oceans.

"Plastics comprise between 60 and 80 per cent of the marine debris in all of the world's oceans. The devastating presence of plastics in our oceans degrades these habitats, poses serious risk to marine life including threatened and migratory species, harms economic uses of the oceans and may adversely affect human health and well-being," said Mr Latu in his opening remarks.

"We must work together to protect our ocean. If we are going to make a positive difference, we must do this together."

Further information on the study of the GEN-6 observer forms can be found in a paper recently published  featured in Ambio1 , the journal of the Swedish Academy of Sciences.

"The results have demonstrated a disregard for international law prohibiting the disposal of plastics and other rubbish at sea, we are now working with our partners to investigate ways of reducing the amount of plastics entering the ocean from fishing and other vessels," said Mr Latu.

Ocean pollution and plastics are just one of the many threats the Pacific oceans face today. Other threats include ocean acidification and coral bleaching from the impacts of climate change as the oceans currently absorb 90 percent of the heat generated by our industrial society. Over-exploitation of fish stocks is also a major problem that has led to the decline of tuna stocks and catastrophic reductions in many shark populations

SPREP is currently collaborating with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia, researching the impacts, source and distribution of plastic in the waters surrounding Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Solomon Islands; and is also supporting a research programme in association with the University of Auckland to assess the amount of plastics and micro plastics in the bodies of both coastal and pelagic fish species.

Panel WCC PO

"Our world is waking up to the widespread use of the ocean as a dump site for all manner of materials, but especially plastics. We must all do something about this, today," said Latu.

The 'Reducing Ocean Threats – Pollution, Plastics, Habitat Destruction and Over-Harvesting' panel during the Pacific Ocean Summit at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii took place on 1 September, 2016.

1 'Marine pollution originating from purse seine and longline fishing vessel operations in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, 2003 – 2015' by Kelsey Richardson, David Haynes, Anthony Talouli and Michael Donoghue of SPREP
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