Forum Secretary General, Baron Waqa Wednesday reiterated the importance of ocean governance at the Regional Ocean Governance and BBNJ Workshop in Suva.

“Ocean governance is a vast area of importance for decision makers, policy makers, and experts,” he said.

Waqa highlighted ongoing efforts and stressed the value of these workshops.

“The Secretariat, with the help of CROP and stakeholders, has been working on the Ocean and Environment Pillar of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.”

He connected these efforts to the workshop’s focus, noting their relevance to the discussions on ocean governance and the BBNJ (Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction) Treaty.

“Workshops for the BBNJ are important as capacity building is crucial for people-centred development.”

SG Waqa emphasised the need for regional cooperation.

“Having our experts from across member countries is needed to bridge the gap in coherence and information sharing.”

“I would like to thank the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and my friend Dr Filimon for organising this event.”

“It is my intention that the workshop is a conducive opportunity to share perspectives and learn about implementing the BBNJ Treaty after ratification,” he told the experts dedicated to managing and protecting the Pacific Ocean.

Forum Secretary General, Baron Waqa. Photo: PIFS

Waqa underlined the significance of ocean conservation and reinforced the region’s collective responsibility.

“We have but one ocean, hence the need to protect and sustainably manage our resources for the descendants of the Blue Pacific Continent.”
He acknowledged the BBNJ’s role in valuing traditional knowledge and the unique circumstances of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

“Our efforts must support the protection of our member identities and interests, especially as big ocean states.”

He commended the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC) for its leadership in coordination and advocacy on ocean matters across Forum member countries.

“I also wish to encourage our CROP members here today to continue working closely with OPOC and PIFS on ocean and environment matters.”

He pointed out that effective coordination eases the burden on member countries, and expressed confidence in the Pacific Ocean Commissioner’s role and acknowledged the need for partnerships.

“I look forward to the work that Dr Manoni, our Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and his team will lead on in this workshop.”

“No work on the ocean can be done alone. We need genuine partners in this area of importance.”

He reminded attendees of the Commissioner’s mandate.

“The Pacific Ocean Commissioner has been mandated by the Forum Leaders to lead the coordination of BBNJ implementation and support member ratification processes.”

“I look forward to hearing about the outcomes of this meeting and workshop. “I wish you all the very best in the next couple of days and count on the work of the Commissioner and his team to deliver our priorities on the ocean,” said SG Waqa

Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Dr Filimon Manoni emphasised the deep connection between the ocean and the cultures, identities, and livelihoods of Pacific peoples.

“The Pacific region has long advocated for and demonstrated global, regional, and national ocean governance.

“Ocean governance concerns how we manage the ocean and its resources,” he said.

Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Dr Filimon Manoni. Photo: PIFS

Dr Manoni highlighted the unique interconnectedness of the ocean, transcending political boundaries and addressed the complex nature of jurisdictional boundaries in ocean management.

“Though our countries and territories are separated by lines and boundaries on maps, the ocean is not. She is an interconnected system of climate, marine life, energy, life, culture, ancestors, and spirituality.”

“The ocean does not distinguish between activities within or beyond national jurisdiction.

“Boundaries hold immense importance for statehood and the rights of our people in this interconnected world,” he said.

Dr Manoni stressed the need for governance systems that respect these boundaries while acknowledging the ocean’s inherent connectivity.

“It is essential to have governance systems that balance our boundaries against our intrinsic interconnectedness, reflecting the nature of our ocean.”

“Ocean governance must unify us as stewards to manage how all stakeholders engage with our ocean.”

Reflecting on international efforts, Dr Manoni recalled the region’s support for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
“Internationally, the Pacific supported UNCLOS, the legal framework that governs the ocean and its activities.”

He praised the collective efforts that led to the BBNJ (Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction) Agreement

“The BBNJ Agreement is a result of our joint efforts. Let’s continue paddling together by preparing for the effective implementation of the Agreement.”

Regionally, he pointed out the evolution of ocean governance which includes various stakeholders.

“Regionally, ocean governance has undergone reforms and consultations. The Pacific has a hierarchy of actors involved in establishing ocean mandates, making decisions, planning, and implementing ocean priorities.”

“This includes Forum Leaders, regional organisations, and the multistakeholder Pacific Ocean Alliance. The region has regional agreements, declarations, and policies to support our ocean.”

Dr Manoni noted the growing focus on ocean governance at the national level.

“Nationally, more countries are focusing on modern ocean governance mechanisms, such as national ocean committees, special-envoys on oceans, and national ocean policies.”

He acknowledged the traditional knowledge and practices of local communities.

“Locally, our communities have managed the ocean for generations but now face increasing stressors.

Traditional marine management supports sustainable use of our ocean. We must recognise and learn from traditional knowledge held by indigenous peoples and local communities.”

He stressed the importance of the workshop in guiding future actions.

“Initiatives like this regional workshop will guide our actions as we strive to understand the BBNJ Agreement and its relation to UNCLOS,” said Dr Manoni.