Conservation International lauds Lau seascape commitment

Conservation International has described as decisive and bold an announcement by the Fijian Government to commit eight percent of Fiji’s ocean, all located within the Lau seascape, to marine protection by 2024.

In welcoming the announcement, Conservation International’s Senior Director, Pacific Region, Susana Waqainabete-Tuisese said the announcement by Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the recent United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon “signifies the collective will of Pacific peoples and their governments to protect and sustainably manage their oceans at all costs, against the impacts of climate change.”

Waqainabete-Tuisese said that while the commitment aligns with the nation’s goal to protect 30 percent and sustainably manage 100 percent of their ocean by 2030, it also comes as great news for the customary leaders of Lau who in the face of threats to their environment and culture, with the support of government and partners, since 2013 committed to protecting their ocean home for current and future generations via the Lau Seascape Initiative.

“The Lau Seascape is the most remote island group in Fiji, home to remarkable biodiversity and stunning ecosystems that provide food, cultural value, and livelihoods for its 9,600 inhabitants,” Waqainabete-Tuisese.

“By applying the seascape approach to the Province of Lau, Fiji will effectively manage 30 percent of its marine area of 335,000 square kilometers, creating over 100,000 square kilometers of marine protected areas. Once established, these marine protected areas will provide Fiji and the world with a proof of concept – demonstrating how protecting 30% and sustainably managing 100% of an ocean area can benefit local livelihoods, increase resilience to climate change, safeguard biodiversity, and strengthen the economy.”

The Blue Nature Alliance has supported the Lau Seascape Initiative as the alliance’s first investment site.

Waqainabete-Tuisese says that Lau is an inspiration and example as solutions are sought to the urgent climate and biodiversity crisis.

“We must help secure vital support and financing mechanisms to implement such bold vision and we must do it now – at a time our ocean needs it most.”

Photo: A turtle making its way to the ocean from the sand cay at Duff Reef Vanuabalavu in Lau which was declared a marine sanctuary under the Lau Seascape Initiative in November 2020. Courtesy of: Conservation International

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