A partnership to undertake a 1.8 million NZD project on Ocean Acidification has been signed between the Government of New Zealand and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
Funded by New Zealand, the four-year project will be implemented by SPREP in partnership with the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). Its aim is to build the resilience of Pacific islands countries and territories to Ocean Acidification in four key areas.
The project will increase ecosystem resilience to Ocean Acidification; develop a knowledge base for improved policy and planning; improve the monitoring of Ocean Acidification; and develop a Framework of Action for adapting to Ocean Acidification at the local level through practical measures that empower people to take informed actions.
With support from the Government of New Zealand we are able to turn words into action and address the issue of Ocean Acidification that will have dire impacts on our Pacific islands which are so closely linked to our Ocean unless we act soon,” said Mr. David Sheppard, the Director-General of SPREP.
The Ocean has absorbed about 30% of the carbon dioxide released by humans into the earth’s atmosphere, increasing the ocean’s acidity level. As the ocean becomes more acidic, shellfish and coral reefs become weaker as the calcium in their shells and external skeletons is leached out. Ocean Acidification might also have an impact on regional tuna fisheries. This can affect major economic interests and could also put food security at risk, especially in regions dependent on seafood protein.
It is predicted that there will be several and long-lasting negative impacts on the tourism and fisheries industries in the Pacific islands, as well as an increase in our vulnerability to ocean surges and storms, as coral reefs are the first line of defence for many Pacific islands.
“Through the inclusion of Ocean Acidification as part of national and regional planning processes through this project, we will see improved management of vulnerable fisheries and marine ecosystems. This project paves the way for better outcomes for our Pacific islands as our island communities will have adopted best practices as part of Ocean Acidification responses,” said Mr. Sheppard.
“There is no doubt in our minds that there needs to be better monitoring and understanding of Ocean Acidification,” said Dr. Tommy Moore, the Pacific Islands Global Ocean Observing System Officer of SPREP.
“Many experts and stakeholders in this field agreed to work together at an international workshop before the Third UN Small Islands Developing States Conference last year and this new project is a result of that agreed partnership to do more where we can. With this support from New Zealand, we can achieve so much.”
The Project will kick off with a Pacific Regional Ocean Acidification Workshop later this year bringing together regional stakeholders, international experts and donor partners.