Reflections of the Pacific Oceans Commissioner on the state of Blue Ocean Continent


The health of the world’s ocean and the planet continue to suffer as a result of climate change and other anthropogenic pressures.

This remark was made by Pacific Ocean Commissioner and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General, Henry Puna at the opening of the Pacific Ocean Alliance (POA) meeting in Suva this week with the theme, ‘Accelerating Blue Pacific Ocean action for 2030 and beyond: Pathway to Lisbon UN Ocean Conference’.

“We now find ourselves in much more contested and challenging environment where we are faced with high geostrategic competition and are continuingly navigating impacts of the global pandemic. Yet, the health of our ocean and our planet continue to suffer as a result of climate change and other anthropogenic pressures,” said SG Puna.

“This contest will place significant pressure on our ability to realise our political and sustainable development aspirations.”

Pacific Oceans Commissioner and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna with Akaiti Puna (right) and Pacific Islands Forum Deputy Secretary General, Dr Filimon Manoni (Left). Photo: Sanjeshni Kumar

The Pacific Ocean Commissioner reflected on three emerging issues with several challenges that will continue to shrink the Pacific oceanscape in the months and years ahead.

Geopolitics. On the geopolitical front, we now face new and emerging threats and opportunities arising from geopolitical and geostrategic competition in and around our region. These challenges may have serious implications on our ability to control our ocean space in the interest of progressing and realising our own development aspirations.

Climate Change. This has been a long-standing issue for our region. I am pleased that there are strengthening consensus and recognition of climate change as a climate emergency. Climate change is changing the very nature and character of our everyday life right here in the Pacific and nothing can be left to challenge any longer. All must be done to elaborate global climate ambition including addressing the climate ocean nexus because it will be only through collective commitment to capitalise on the opportunities and solutions that the ocean offers.

Sea level rise. Our Pacific Islands Forum Leaders declaration on preserving maritime zones in the face of climate change-related sea level rise last August signed a deep neutral commitment to safeguard the homes and interests of the Pacific people. States establishing and depositing their maritime zones in accordance to our clause and maintaining those boundaries regardless of the effects of climate change-related sea-level rise.

Pollution. Maritime pollution of all sources is a huge challenge for our region and our ocean. Being the current issue of nuclear waste on the threat of discharge by Japan. Land waste and segmentations of plastics. The Pacific region contributes as little as 1.3% of global plastic pollution and other forms of pollution. Yet, we in the Pacific region are disproportionately affected by its impacts.

PIF Secretary General, Henry Puna delivering his statement to the participants at the opening of Pacific Ocean Alliance on 07 June 2022. Photo: Sanjeshni Kumar

He said in response to these challenges the Pacific Islands Forum is offering the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent to be adopted by leaders in early July.

“The ocean features as a key priority for the 2050 strategy. Leaders identifying the protection of our ocean health and integrity as well as the sustainable makers of our islands and oceans resources as core priorities for 2050 strategy.”

While reflecting on the importance of fisheries resources to the livelihoods of the Pacific people and the whole world, SG Puna said, “the reality is our region supplies more than half of the Tuna needs of the world.”

“The fisheries resources offer many opportunities to our people, revenue generation, employment opportunities and importantly food security. It is therefore critical that we look after this valuable resource from the growing number of threats. Our region remains the custodian of the healthiest Tuna stock in the world.”

He reaffirmed the importance of scientifically based approaches to all the Pacific work on ocean.

“This can and should be further enriched by traditional knowledge and custom-made practices. We all know that our cultural and traditional practices stood the test of time.”

“Also critical in ensuring the effective oceans governance is the way the means to achieve our ocean ambitions, therefore, sustain ocean financing is absolutely important.”

Participants with Pacific Oceans Commissioner and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna. Photo: Sanjeshni Kumar

Secretary-General Puna provided his reflections on the future of Our Blue Pacific.

“Despite our many challenges, I believe that we are in a good place to drive and demand action. The future of our ocean consonant is in our hands. In envisioning our future, I offend ask what kind of version would we like to transfer to the future generations? My answer to that question starts with two others. What would it take to do so and are we doing enough?”

Drawing inspiration from ongoing work on the 2050 strategy, SG Puna envisions a future by 2050 where”

– We actors want an integrated ocean continent to strengthen integrated ocean management with stronger collaboration and coordination between key relevant sectors such as fisheries, minerals, transport, tourism, energy and the environment.

– All our maritime borders waited long been finalised and locked away with keys to it ultimately in our own hands.

– Our SIDS will be viewed as more than just a platform for tourism and recreation and rather as an ocean for opportunity and solutions.

– Our leaders and people share the same understanding on stewardship of the blue Pacific Ocean and on sustainable management of their resources as not based on the influence of others.

– Having an equitable prospect on the value of a healthy marine environment and the service it provides to help political and business leaders arrive at more efficient and more sustainable decisions that link economic growth with ocean health.

He said, “We must continue to work together in accelerating actions on oceans not for ourselves but for the benefit of the generations to come.”

The POA continues today with a march to celebrate World Oceans Day in Suva, Fiji Islands.

The art in progress at the Pacific Islands Forum. Photo: Sanjeshni Kumar