Clean Seas and Healthy Ocean for People at First Pacific Blue Economy Conference

Pollution, plastics, illegal fishing and climate change were hot topics at the Pacific Blue Economy Conference this week in Suva, Fiji, held by the Pacific Islands Development Forum.

The Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Hon. Enele Sopoaga called for a global ban on microbeads and a global strategy to phase out single-use plastics, urging for coordination, particularly in dealing with climate change pressures on a Pacific blue economy, and highlighted the growing threats to ocean health.

While the definitions of 'blue economy' vary, a common element is sustainability. In the Pacific region, the majority of economic activities and livelihoods either depend on the ocean or affect the ocean.

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Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Hon Enele Sopoaga, speaking at the UNFCCC COP21, 2015. Photo: SPREP

"Let's not get too caught up in colours, blue, green or a combination of both: the underlying goal is still sustainable development. There is no possibility of a blue economy without a healthy and clean ocean," said Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, Head of the UN Environment Pacific office.

Innovation and sustainable use of ocean resources must now take into account pressures of many kinds, including pollution, global climate change and ocean acidification.

"We must remember that healthy economies rely on healthy ecosystems," said Dr Tommy Moore, Pacific Islands Global Ocean Observing System officer with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

"Healthy environments provide ecosystem services that provide direct and indirect economic benefits to us."

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Fiji Prime Minister Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama (middle) officially opened the meeting at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva. Photo: Fiji Government Facebook

Pacific leaders are recognising these connections in their calls for integrated ocean management.

"A key concern that we share at SPREP and UN Environment is maintaining ocean health through pollution prevention," said Nawadra.

"Many Pacific leaders are taking action to stop marine litter through efforts like bans on single-use plastics, and we are supporting that work through assistance with legal frameworks and with our global and regional campaigns."

The global Clean Seas campaign, the regional strategy Cleaner Pacific 2025, and the joint voluntary commitment to Cleans Seas for a Clean Pacific are shaping SPREP and UN Environment's actions to stop ocean pollution for the better health of Pacific environments and people.

For more information, please contact Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, sefanaia.nawadra@unep.org or Ms. Nanette Woonton, nanettew@sprep.org.
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