The Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC) has officially opened in Palau, led by Pacific Ocean Commissioner Dr Filimon Manoni.

A core mission of the OPOC is advancing the oceans agenda. The office collaborates with CROP agencies and partners, prioritising gender equality in ocean-related initiatives.

“Our primary function is assisting our members with their ocean initiatives, working alongside CROP agencies and partners to support their ocean objectives,” Dr Manoni said.

The Palau office is now operational. The transition of all staff from the previous Suva, Fiji, location is expected to be completed by September 2024.

Five key positions are filled, including Legal Officer, Policy Officer, Engagement Officer, and Oceans Management Officer. New staff orientation is underway.

“I’m excited to be in Palau and begin work on ocean issues,” Dr Manoni stated.

“I look forward to collaborating with the Palau government and other ocean stakeholders, both locally and across the wider Pacific.”

Dr Manoni commended Palau for being the first UN member to ratify the Agreement on the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ).

Palau is leading the way in BBNJ ratification. Partners like OPOC, IUCN, and the University of the South Pacific are providing valuable support.

The treaties require 60 countries’ ratification to enter into force. The recent signing by the European Union is a positive development.

The OPOC actively promotes regional cooperation on ocean conservation strategies, including the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific and the Framework for Pacific Oceanscapes. These frameworks were established in 2010 by the OPOC and the Pacific Oceans Alliance, with updates made in 2020 to address current challenges.

Dr Manoni will attend key international events in the coming months, including the UN Oceans conference in Barcelona, the Our Oceans conference in Athens, and the Commonwealth Ocean Ministers event in Cyprus.