– In tribute to World Ocean Day on June 8, conservation partners bestowed the second annual Global Ocean Conservation Award to Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and Tui Macuata
(Paramount Chief) Ratu
Aisea Katonivere of Fiji's Macuata province on the island of Vanua Levu, for their work protecting the island nation's unique marine biodiversity. Tui Macuata
traveled from Fiji to accept the award.
Qarase and Tui Macuata were honored for their partnership and commitment to ensuring that at least 30 percent of Fiji's inshore and offshore marine areas will be effectively managed and financed within a comprehensive, ecologically representative network of marine protected areas by the year 2020.
"The Fijian government, our local communities and non-governmental organizations all work together in this stupendous partnership," Qarase said. "Our commitment is to develop our network of marine protected areas into a mainstay for national incomes, coastal livelihoods and traditional cultures, so that our waters can continue to be a source of beauty and biodiversity as much as sustenance and income for all future generations."
"In January 2005, Fiji made history with its marine protected area pledge of 30 percent. Their example, including the fine collaboration of government with community, has helped to spark a domino effect of protected areas for some of the world's most precious marine ecosystems," said Dr. Sylvia Earle, executive director of Conservation International's Global Marine Division.
Dr. Earle refers to the "Micronesia Challenge" inspired by Fiji's pledge, undertaken by Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands to protect 30 percent of near-shore marine resources and 20 percent of terrestrial resources on their islands by 2020. Inspired by the Micronesia Challenge, the Caribbean island nation of Grenada has since pledged to put 25 percent of its near-shore marine resources under effective conservation by 2020.
"This award recognizes Fiji's leadership in marine conservation," said Dr. Simon Cripps, director of WWF's Global Marine Programme. "The international donor community must now join with Pacific governments and people to protect their globally significant marine areas that are essential to the health and well-being of Pacific people, their cultures and their economies."
"Bold commitments like this are required to tackle the growing problems facing our oceans. All nations need to ramp up the protection of the marine environment, both within their national waters but also in areas beyond national jurisdiction, the high seas," said Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of IUCN's Global Marine Program.
In addition to his traditional role as chief, Tui Macuata is also responsible for governmental administration in his province of 110,000 people, which is home to the Great Sea Reef, the third largest barrier reef in the world. Passionate about the need for concerted action and a long-term approach to conservation for future generations, Tui Macuata has persuaded four other chiefs to join him in establishing the 59-square-kilometer Macuata Marine Protected Area Network and management plan. He is now planning a campaign within the Great Council of Chiefs, the highest and most revered council in Fiji.
"I am proud to be a conservation convert," Tui Macuata said. "I am going to encourage the Great Council to renew their commitment to marine conservation, because our only chance for the future is through conservation."
"Fiji is now a world leader in this crucial area of marine conservation," commented President Elliott A. Norse of Marine Conservation Biology Institute. "Long after the last corals and big fishes are gone from the seas of nations that didn't protect them, future generations will go to Fiji and thank those conservation pragmatists who decided to protect 30 percent of their waters."
The Global Ocean Conservation Award is given each World Ocean Day, June 8, in recognition of an individual or individuals who have made outstanding contributions to global marine conservation, catalyzing prominent changes in ocean governance, industrial practices, public perception or scientific knowledge. The first winner in 2005 was Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, the environment minister of Costa Rica.