By Ruci Lumelume

It was an honour and a great privilege for me to have been chosen to represent Fiji together with WCS Fiji Director, Dr Sangeeta to the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York.

Personally, this i­­­nclusion in the delegation signifies the partnership that we have built over the years with the Government of Fiji, particularly the work on the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape.

Through WCS, I have worked closely over the last three years with government through the Ministry of Fisheries, Department of Environment, and other key government ministries/departments, industry and communities of the four provinces of Bua, Lomaiviti, Ra and Tailevu to identify and establish two marine managed areas in the Bligh Waters and Central Viti. The marine managed areas will ensure the sustainable use of the seascapes natural resources.

Overall, marine protected areas or marine managed areas have been scientifically proven as an important management tool that contributes towards biodiversity conservation and the wider sustainable use of oceans.

In Fiji, we are trying to connect inshore locally managed marine areas with larger marine managed areas, so ensure that we are taking a “ridge to reef to ocean management” approach. This recognises the important connectivity and species that move between inshore and more offshore or deeper water areas.

The gazetting of marine managed areas in the Vatu-i-Ra Seascape is listed in 2 of the 17 voluntary commitments that were announced by the Honourable Minister of Fisheries, Semi Koroilavesau at the Fiji side event on 7 June, 2017 at the UN Ocean Conference.

The announcement of the 17 commitments has also being applauded by the other countries at the conference, and demonstrates Fiji’s leadership role on oceans in the Pacific, and globally. This is complemented by the wider call for more sustainable use of the oceans, sustainable development on land-based activities; responsibility towards stewardship of the oceans has been echoed in most of the side events at the conference.

It is clear moving forward that there needs to be further collaboration and partnerships between developed and developing countries, such as small island developing states.