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Call to save reefs

Lice Movono
Thursday, January 18, 2018

MAJOR reef structures worldwide are dying and the world must do better to take care of the oceans.

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) executive director Erik Solheim said this year was the make it or break it point for coral health worldwide.

Mr Solheim leads a team of six UN officials from the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

The team included Fiji's permanent representative to the UN, Peter Thomson, who was last year appointed the UN special envoy for the ocean.

Speaking at the talanoa session on International Year of the Reef (IYOR) on Tuesday, Mr Solheim said last year's launch of the Oceans Pathway initiative at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, was an important part of maintaining the world's coral reefs.

"A number of reefs are coming down, reefs are dying, we are seeing many bleaching events, so we see a rapid number of killing and dying of reefs all over the planet, be it in the Caribbean, in the Pacific or the Great Barrier Reef in Australia," Mr Solheim said.

Using a passionate plea, he reminded senior civil servants who were present at the IYOR talanoa to honour their ancestors who showed courage to voyage across the world to the Pacific.

"To pay tribute to the ancestors of the Pacific, we must take good care of the Pacific Ocean and the people in these oceans," Mr Solheim said.

"I am not aware of many people on the planet as adventurous or courageous like your ancestors."

Mr Solheim said the IYOR called on the world to do better, adding the destruction of the coral reefs was both an ethical and economic issue.

"This is an ethical issue for humanity. Coral reefs are among the most beautiful part of the planet Earth as the rainforest of the sea. Everyone will have seen yourself, you know the immense beauty and variety of fish and corals of the reef. How can we be that generation that destroyed what God created for us," he said.

"It's an ethical issue for humanity in the first order. We should bring to the next generation in the same shape what we inherited from our grandparents and parents."

According to Mr Solheim, all the economies of Pacific Islands were dependent on coral reefs for at least 25 per cent of its gross domestic product which can be attributed to tourism.

"Additionally it's a huge economic issue. With the destruction of the coral reefs, global fishing will suffer, global tourism will suffer. 25 per cent of the GDP of a number of Pacific Islands comes from tourism," he said.

"If coral reefs were to die, or be destroyed, global tourism will for sure suffer, as will fisheries. So it's a huge economic issue."

The one-day event continued yesterday with a dive expedition led by Mr Thomson to officially launch the IYOR at the Great Sea Reef or Cakaulevu, off Nukubati Island Resort.

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