Strengthening resilience to Ocean Acidification in Tokelau

"Our Ocean is us, our cultural identity – Ulu o Tokelau Faipule Siopili Perez

Tokelau is one of four Pacific islands embarking on work to strengthen the island atolls resilience to the impacts of ocean acidification, a new and emerging challenge for our region. For Tokelau, this is now underway with a special inception workshop held in Samoa, to plan implementation of the different activities.

With the Tokelau General Fono recently endorsing the Tokelau Climate Change Strategy – 'Living with Change' the protection of the ocean is featured as a high priority. Being part of the New Zealand Pacific Partnership on Ocean Acidification (NZPPOA) regional project to build resilience to ocean acidification is especially important for Tokelau and her community.

IMG 0514Ulu o Tokelau Faipule Siopili Perez. Photo: SPREP

"It goes without saying how invaluable the ocean and ocean life is to the Tokelauans and to all other Pacific islanders. 'Our Ocean is us, our cultural identity'. Our lives are intertwined with the ocean life in all and every aspect– economy, culture, language," said the Ulu o Tokelau Faipule Siopili Perez

"For decades, knowledge and skills passed down from our ancestors has been the key to our harmony with the changing nature. I believe resilience and innovation, an amalgamation of traditional knowledge and modern technology and both rooted in science, can only bring out the best of results for the nature and the people."

The Tokelau community inception workshop is working to identify priority actions that will be part of the NZPPOA, a collaborative effort between the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the University of the South Pacific, and the Pacific Community.

The NZPPOA aims to build resilience to ocean acidification in Pacific Island communities and ecosystems, with financial support from NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Government of Monaco.

"If the land is well and the sea is well, the people will thrive," said Mr Mike Walsh, the Deputy High Commissioner of New Zealand High Commission in Samoa as he spoke at the opening of the workshop.

"Over the next few days, this will be an ideal opportunity to identify practical adaptation actions and to find ways of addressing the capacity buildings needs in Tokelau."

IMG 0531Participants of the Tokelau inception workshop. Photo: SPREP

Key actions in Tokelau under the NZPPOA include an Ecosystem and Social Resilience Assessment and Mapping Study to guide adaptation activities at selected sites; Research and monitoring of the site, as well capacity building and awareness-raising of ocean acidification to help the local community and partners develop effective coastal zone management.

Ocean acidification is driven by the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere of which approximately 50% is absorbed into the atmosphere, 26% into the land and 24% into the ocean – changing the chemistry of the seawater.

"Given our high dependence and intimate relationship with the ocean we already lead the world in marine management and conservation, and we are poised to lead the world on managing the impacts of climate change on our oceans. In addition to sea level rise, climate change is causing our oceans to warm and become more acidic, both of which are detrimental to us," said Mr Roger Cornforth, the Deputy Director General of SPREP.

While the long-term impacts of ocean acidification are yet to be understood, it is very likely to have significant impacts on a range of shelled animals such as corals, mollusks, crustaceans and habitats such as the coral reef.

It will also have direct and indirect impacts on coastal and pelagic ecosystems. In the Pacific Islands region coastal fisheries annually account for USD 200 million in subsistence value and another USD 165 million in commercial value, and the value of the region's industrial tuna fisheries is estimated at USD 6 billion.

"Globally we have already lost 50% of our coral reefs and their associated fisheries and ecosystem services due to local anthropogenic stressors such as destructive fishing practices and pollution," said Mr Cornforth.

"By 2050, under business-as-usual practices, the world will likely lose 90% of its coral reefs. The risks posed by this are highest for the atoll nations such as Tokelau, where the reef is your home and basis of your livelihoods."

The Tokelau Inception Workshop to the NZPPOA is held at the Insel Ferhman Hotel in Apia, it brings together approximately 35 residents from Tokelau together in Samoa to meet with technical experts from SRPEP and ends 29 March,, 2017.

To learn more about Ocean Acidification in the Pacific please visit: https://www.sprep.org/attachments/Publications/FactSheet/Oceans/ocean-acidification-pacific.pdf. This is one of 27 factsheets developed for the Pacific islands as they prepare for the UN Ocean Conference in June.

To read the Pacific Islands Ocean Acidification Vulnerability Assessment please visit: www.sprep.org/attachments/Publications/CC/ocean-acidification.pdf
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