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SPREP commends leadership in protecting our oceans with new announcements of Marine Protected Areas in the Pacific islands

The Pacific islands now contain over 15 million square kilometres of marine protected areas with the newest announcements of marine reserves from the United Kingdom and the United States.

Approximately 830,000 square kilometres, almost the whole Pitcairn exclusive economic zone, has been designated by the government of the United Kingdom as the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve.

Two weeks ago, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument around the Hawaiian Islands was extended by President Obama from 360,000 to 1.5 million square kilometres, and he designated the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument (12,725 square kilometres) in the Atlantic.

Marine Protected Area Chelbacheb Palau Stuart ChapeMarine Protected Area, Chelbacheb, Palau. Photo © Stuart Chape

Combining these new announcements with the large Marine Protected Areas put in place in recent years by the Cook Islands, Kiribati, New Caledonia and Palau, the Pacific islands region has now overall achieved Aichi Target 11, ensuring that by 2020 at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas are conserved, although individually some SPREP Pacific island members have yet to reach the target.

"The Pacific islands continue to lead and inspire the world in the establishment of Marine Protected Areas. We applaud the initiatives of our island members as trailblazers in establishing the Cook Islands Marine Park, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, the New Caledonia Natural Park of the Coral Sea and the Palau Marine Sanctuary," said Mr Kosi Latu, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

"We also congratulate the bold moves by our metropolitan members, the United Kingdom for their recent announcement of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve and the United States for their extension of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii and the new Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument."

Britain delayed the declaration of the Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve until the satisfactory completion of a 1-year trial of marine surveillance capabilities over the area. This has enabled the government of the United Kingdom to develop a comprehensive plan using modern technologies for surveillance and enforcement of restrictions on fishing and other activities in this newly-declared area.

SPREP-EMG-2016-010 MPAs Sept16Map of Marine Protected Areas in the Pacific region including Australia, New Zealand, United States and United Kingdom. Map: R.Wright/SPREP

"These large marine protected areas within our Pacific island waters, provide a 'blue belt' of protection against impacts on ocean health and marine species. These are vital steps to conserve our ocean and the life it supports. Despite the challenges we face, these actions bring hope that yes, we can make a difference and save our oceans by working together."

SPREP and the French Marine Protected Areas Agency AAMP are working with the Pitcairn Islands and other European territories in the Pacific to enhance capacity for marine protected area management through the Pacific Biodiversity Blue Belt project, funded by the European Union BEST 2.0 initiative.

"We will also continue to work and support all our member countries as they strive to protect our oceans. The challenge has been laid down by the global community, and in the Pacific we are responding. The rest of the world needs to start catching up with us," said Mr Latu.
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