Billions lost in our oceans

Vione Village on the island of Gau is surrounded by a thick mangrove forest that also provides an entrance to the village. Picture: SIKELI QOUNADOVU

Vione Village on the island of Gau is surrounded by a thick mangrove forest that also provides an entrance to the village. Picture: SIKELI QOUNADOVU

Fiji is set to lose $2.4 billion per annum from 2050 onwards as a result of our depleting marine ecosystem.

International Union for Conservation of Nature Regional Director Mason Smith said all this could be avoided if people took extra precautionary measures.

Mr Smith said according to the Marine Ecosystem Services Valuation Reports and Infographics supplied by the Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Management in Pacific Island Countries (MACBIO), achieving the loss worth $2.4b is possible judging from the rate at which we are going.

Mr Smith blamed human activities as one of the major causes of the depletion the country’s marine ecosystem.

He said according to the research by MACBIO published in 2015, Fiji’s marine ecosystem was worth $2.4b, that was more than the country’s total exports.

The report reads that $128 million of the country’s gross domestic product came from fishing and aquaculture, subsistence fishing for local communities is worth at least $59m. Coral reefs and mangrove save the country $21.2m worth of coastal protection.

Mr Smith said the report indicated that Fiji was losing about 3 per cent of mangroves every year and by 2050 we may have lost $213m because of its potential use for medicine, firewood and access from storm surges.

“What it tells us is that the marine ecosystem provides us with $1.15b per annum, which is what tourists pay to come and see our pristine ecosystem, whether it’s shark diving, surfing the value that has been tagged to it is $1.15b.

“The value of Fiji’s tuna is $55m per year, that’s conservative. Coral reefs are being lost at 2 per cent per year by 2050 we could be losing $2.4b in ecosystem services, at the rate we are going now because of the damage we are doing to the reef system.

“There are many factors that is causing this; land-based chemicals, human activities, in fact almost everything we do is affecting our eco-system. We are losing mangrove from 1-3 per cent.”

Mr Smith said the IUCN was working with Government on the importance to sustain, maintain and conserve our marine ecosystem.

This is to give decision makers an indication of the value of the marine ecosystem and what it provides to them. Most of it is intangible, we don’t really see the value until you dig down.

“We try and influence policy, we have a National Environment Council, below that sits the Protected Areas Committee. This data has gone to them, the policy makers in Fiji have been briefed. We continue to liaise with them on the figures that we have to try and influence them on things like mangrove destruction.

“For instance we are now talking with the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Lands to try and have a national mangrove rehabilitation program. We have a mangrove management committee in Fiji and we’re working with them. IUCN is accredited to the Green Climate Fund, so we have access to those funds.

“If they want us to do things with issues regarding our reefs we can come in, we have six million euros for protected areas. We can use some of those funds to look at the critical areas that have been affected in Fiji like agricultural run-offs before that runs out to sea. Coral replanting, it is about working together, partnership.

Minister for Fisheries Semi Koroilavesau, when contacted, said while he was unaware of the figures, he was happy with the concerted efforts made by Government, NGOs and local communities in trying to conserve our bio-diversity.

“In general we know we are losing a lot of ocean resources through climate change and human interferences. As you know, we are doing a lot of sustainable initiatives to try and counter the impact of climate change and human interference in the ecosystem, we are aware of that and we are carrying out correct actions now.

“What IUCN is indicating to you is an estimation based on studies carried overseas like the Great Barrier Reef, we have not been able to confirm an actual figure on that because it will involve a lot of studies around Fiji, so basically it’s being based on studies carried out. There has been no stock take within our waters to establish those figures.

Meanwhile, the MACBIO project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety’s (BMUB) International Climate Initiative (IKI). It is being implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) with the countries of Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. It has technical support from the Oceania Office of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is working in close collaboration with the Pacific Regional Environment Program .”

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