Fiji’s Role In UN Ocean Conference Is Crucial

  Below is an extensive interview with the Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau on the Preparatory Meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York  last week for the United
25 Feb 2017 12:41
Fiji’s Role In UN Ocean  Conference Is Crucial
Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau at the Preparatory Meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Photo: Ministry of Fisheries and Forests


Below is an extensive interview with the Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau on the Preparatory Meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York  last week for the United Nations Ocean Conference.

This is the  5 to 9 June and Fiji and Sweden are co-presidents.

Fiji is to lead with the support of Sweden.


1.What role is Fiji playing in the United Nations Ocean Conference?

The Oceans Summit came into prominence through a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 70/226 (UNGA)of 22nd December 2015 which mandated that a high level UN Conference to support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development coinciding with World Oceans Day.

It is to be held in New York from June 5 to 9.

Fiji plays an important role in this Summit as it will serve as Co-Presidents of the Conference with Sweden. Fiji is to lead with the support of Sweden.

In the lead up to the Summit under the plan and timelines that had been compiled, Fiji under the leadership of the Minister of Fisheries who is the Ocean Champion will be preparing Fijis and the regional approach towards the meeting.

The main meeting in June will be Co-Chaired by our Prime Minister and that is also a very significant role for a small country like ours to play.

In responding to this responsibility, I have just returned from a two day Preparatory Meeting chaired by Portugal and Singapore in New York from the February 15 to16.

The main task of this preparatory meeting was to:

(1) Finalise theme for the seven Partnership Dialogue.

(2) Consider “CALL FOR ACTION”- which is to solicit support from countries to support the implementation of Goal 14 which is a general call to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.


  1. What does this Summit mean for


The Summit means a lot for Fijians as almost 60 per cent of Fiji’s population are coastal dwellers and survive from what comes from the Oceans. The Fisheries product from the Oceans amount to almost $260m million annually and it is critical that our oceans are kept clean and healthy so as to sustainably support sustainable fisheries products and health.

The summit is a platform Fiji can strengthen its call for assistance internationally from, and that is nation states heed to this call for responsible custodians of fish stocks and marine resources in their waters and all the world’s Oceans.

It is also important that Fiji from the Summit can make a contribution by pleading to developed nations to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution at all kinds, in particular from land based activities, as migratory species of fish especially Tuna can be affected by the pollution member countries contribute to in their waters before arriving in Fijis exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

So the Summit will be very beneficial to Fiji apart from soliciting support from member nations to live up to the responsibilities therein such UN resolutions  Fiji will also be supported from development funds put together by developed countries to assist members in achieving the goals.


  1. How important is the Ocean Conference?

Indeed, the ocean’s health and climate change are two of the greatest challenges facing the world now.

The Summit was resolved by UNGA as a means to support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14.

As the I said New York “we have pinned our hopes of reversing the current cycle of decline in the health of the ocean and seas on SDG14.

It is useful to recall here that one of the discussions leading up to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda was to find homes for the “orphan” SDGs, which included SDG14.

It is precisely because SDG14 had the potential of being an orphan, that this Conference was carefully put in place to protect the integrity of the delivery of that goal”.

So the Summit can be termed as a step or beginning of a force that leads us to the day by 2030, when we can say it was largely because of its enlightened guidance that we saved significant life in the oceans and seas of this world?

That it is because of this SDG that we curbed ocean acidification, curtailed illegal fishing, reduced marine pollution, and improved the health of maritime ecosystems?

And because of it, that our children and grandchildren will continue to live in a world where fish and shellfish still flourish in the wild?

With the firm commitment of every concerned stakeholder, Fiji sees ‘The Ocean Conference’ as setting the course for the global community towards achieving SDG14.

As with most of the small island developing States, Fiji has an existential stake in ensuring the integrity of SDG14’s delivery.

For this reason, the Prime Minister of Fiji, Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, will be heading Fiji’s delegation to the conference in June.

Our Prime Minister will also be assuming the Presidency of the UN Climate Change Conference, COP 23, later this year.

Both these processes are extremely important for Fiji, the South Pacific region made up of Small Island developing states and globally.


  1. How bad is climate change in Fiji and what lessons have we learnt from changing climate affecting Fiji?

The first lesson Fiji has learnt is that the changing climate is affecting Fiji too and its not only the low lying atolls of the other 21 small Island developed states and territories in the Region that is affected.

What we are going through in Fiji is not so bad as what other smaller island states in the region are going through or beginning to discover.

Some their food supply of breadfruits and taro are getting affected by seawater and even their sources of drinking water which comes from water lenses are getting contaminated. We in Fiji are lucky as these are not happening to us.

We in Fiji have learnt to be more proactive and build houses to be more resilient now to up to Category 5 and above cyclones and build further away from the coastline after the recent devastation of “Winston”.

The more violent storms and adverse effect on corals are beginning to show that habitats for fish are destroyed and also breeding grounds and food resources to marine life face degradation.

The above is beginning to build up a breed of people that will produce a culture of resilience and slowly we are being taught by our situations to come up with mitigation measures and projects like getting involved in mangrove planting projects to rebuild fish habitats and to protect our coastlines.    Also inland dwellers are encouraged to culture fish and prawns or increase the intensity of aquaculture projects to be able to grow or breed fish that you can control the environment they are to survive in and produce feed reducing their vulnerabilities to effect of climate change.

The Ministry of Fisheries is putting out more Fish aggregating devices (FAD) to encourage people to fish around FADS and which will relieve pressure on damaged reefs and coral damaged by cyclones so it recovers naturally, thus building up its own resilient mechanism, and likewise the fish-stocks and species.

In also building up resilience the Ministry with NGO and the Community are setting up more marine protected areas so as to manage their local resources in relation to consumption to prevent, for example overfishing and irresponsible means of extraction.

We have shared above what we have learnt and how we are building up resilience through proactive means and projects


  1. What next now for the United Nation’s Ocean Summit?

Fiji after the preparatory meeting in New York, will be co-ordinating the Regional approach from Fiji and amongst the SIDs.

A series of preparatory meetings is being organised to be held in Fiji and the negotiations for the Call for Action from March and finalised in May.

This is aimed at co-ordinating the compilation of a concise, focused, inter-governmentally agreed declaration in the form of a

“Call  for Action” to support the implementation of Goal 14. Fiji will continue to take the lead in this before the Summit.

The work and meetings to bring about sustainable use of fish and marine resources wont end at the Summit.

The SDG 14 goals are intended or has been planned to be achieved by 2030 and therefore plans for other meetings are being done to support the implementation of the goals.




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