The Fiji Times
Our ocean, our home
THE new chapter of the law of the sea, which opened in June with the adoption of the Agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) is now ready to be written.
Today, it officially opens for signature and what a delight that the first country to sign is from our very own region. I warmly congratulate the government of the Federated States of Micronesia for leading the way.
I also congratulate the governments of Palau, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tuvalu, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia and the Republic of Marshall Islands who, together with 70 countries, took this important step.
As a Pacific islander, I have journeyed through life always surrounded by the ocean.
The ocean and its living species, many of whom are protective totems to many families in the Pacific region, do not know the maritime borders established with the law of the sea.
This framework, centered on States as the sole stakeholders to govern the ocean, has led to an individualisation of our collective relationship to the ocean and its resources. We have seen the prevalence of ‘exploitation and use’ over ‘respect and care’.
The BBNJ instrument gives us a legal tool to effectively collaborate to respect our ocean.
It recognises and upholds the special connection and connectivity we have with our ocean both within and beyond national borders. It recognises that we, as islanders, have interests in what is going on outside our borders.
It also recognises that our communities who hold traditional knowledge have a role to play in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, even beyond our borders.
The Agreement is ambitious. There will need to be delivery of adequate funding, support for the development of capacity, including our science expertise, as well as transfer and development of technology to tackle the challenges we are faced with, as well as to support us in reaching our full potential.
Our ocean is our global commons, and it is our global responsibility to care for it.
Our ocean will only be able to breathe if we all work together because it is only when we paddle at the same rhythm and in the same direction that we can go fast and far.
Therefore, to be truly paradigm shifting, we must aim towards universal participation.
Forum Leaders have previously called for the expeditious conclusion of the negotiations of this treaty.
Pacific delegates, with support from regional partners have worked tirelessly to see this treaty through to its completion.
I congratulate the negotiators who brought this treaty to completion. I also recognize experts from our regional organizations for their support.
I applaud countries from the Pacific who are taking the bold step to be bound to the Agreement. I encourage others to follow suit.
In the next few months, my office, the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner will be working with our regional organizations, the Pacific Ocean Alliance and partners to support our countries in ratifying and implementing the Agreement.
Our efforts in that regard will contribute to the realisation of the vision of the Blue Pacific Continent narrative and the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific. Today is a good day for our Ocean. Today is a good day for our Blue Pacific region.