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The Government of French Polynesia has announced its Coral Reef Protection plan, which aims to protect all coral species this year and then, by 2030, all its coral ecosystems.

 The announcement was made by French Polynesia’s Minister of Culture, Environment and Marine Resources, Hon Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu, on the sidelines of the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon Portugal on Friday.

 “It will only take a simple law, but it is the local populations who will have to take ownership of the management of these spaces,” the Minister said. He was amongst the speakers during a side event titled “A Sustainable Blue Pacific Continent: Scaling up action through Ocean Science and Traditional knowledge for informed governance,” organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). The event was to highlight how the Pacific islands region is applying the best available science and traditional knowledge to forge and strengthen partnerships to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14. 

 With Pacific island people known as seafarers, ocean voyagers and storytellers, Hon. Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu, told a little story during his presentation.

 “Last February, a team of researchers “discovered”, off the coast of our island, Tahiti, an exceptional coral reef. It is 3 kilometers long and 60 meters wide, and is between 30 and 65 meters deep. All this makes this coral reef one of the largest and deepest in the world,” he said. “The news went around the world; the media widely broadcast the images of this exceptional discovery. What bothers me in this story is the idea of a discovery, when local fishermen have known this exceptional place since the dawn of time.”

 The Minister told the global gathering the people of French Polynesia, and all Pacific Island residents are not victims living on small remote islands. They are custodians of critical traditional knowledge on protecting our ocean.

 “We are an ocean continent of innovations and solutions. This is the message we all need to carry. We are one ocean, we are one voice,” he said. “Did you know, for example, that there are many stingray or sea turtle cleaning stations on our islands, where the animals come to rest, while allowing the small fish and crustaceans to rid them of their parasites. Here again, our local fishermen have a perfect knowledge of these places to be preserved, where it is important not to put an anchor, at the risk of definitively destroying a balanced ecosystem. This is why traditional knowledge must be preserved.”

 The Government of French Polynesia’s Coral Reef Protection plan will cover coral ecosystems, which represents 20% of the world's atolls.

 “The idea is not to obtain futile international media recognition, for having produced beautiful images of deep-sea corals. The objective is to know how to be within a balanced ecosystem. It is quite simply a way of life,” the Minister said.

 “Where I come from, the Pacific region, people are resilient. We do not live on an atoll where there is no fresh water. We survive, thanks to all the knowledge accumulated over millennia: this primary forest will create humus so rich that it will be used as fertilizer to plant fruits or vegetables; the flower of this tree announces the arrival of certain fish that it will be possible to catch without threatening its population.”

The Pacific Islands region is working across the UN decade of Ocean Science to bring solutions and actions to build a sustainable Blue Pacific. A key part of it is the Pacific Coral Reef Action Plan 2021-2030, developed with member states of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to coordinate the Pacific’s efforts to protect valuable ecosystems. It focuses the region’s coral-reef conservation and management on four priorities over the next ten years: Conservation of habitats and biodiversity, Sustainable fisheries and food security, Resilience and adaptation to climate change, Sustainable tourism and local awareness, custodianship and traditional knowledge make an important contribution to each of these priorities.

The Second UN Ocean Conference is hosted in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 1 July 2022.  The Pacific Islands are represented by a strong contingent, which includes the Leaders from Fiji, Palau and Tonga.  Also present are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

 The UN Ocean side event was held on 1 July from 2.30 to 3.45pm facilitated by the Pacific Community and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) with the co-organising partnership support of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, FFA, and The Pacific Islands Forum.

 The Second UN Ocean Conference is hosted in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 1 July 2022.  The Pacific Islands are represented by a strong contingent which includes the Leaders from Fiji, Palau and Tonga.  Also present are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

For further information on the UN Ocean Conference 2022, please visit: https://www.un.org/en/conferences/ocean2022

French Polynesia