Bula vinaka, my friends, and good afternoon.
It’s my pleasure to be here with you all today to kick off a conversation that –– I hope –– will back the many promising words spoken here at the “Blue COP” with even more-promising action.
Over the course of the past week, Fiji has found great hope in the many friends of the ocean that have shown their support to our cause. Now, we need to turn those friendships into commitments that will aggressively protect our vital ocean ecosystem before irreversible damage is done.
That’s why we’ve come together this afternoon –– to build on the momentum of our ocean-focused negotiations, and pull together a group of forward-facing nations that are committed to achieving 100 per cent integrated ocean management of our exclusive economic zones.
My friends, over 40 per cent of the world’s ocean is under the jurisdiction of our EEZs –– but the responsible management of these national boundaries has an impact far beyond, into the high seas. Recognising this, Fiji has already committed to the 2030 target of 100 per cent sustainable management of our EEZ, with at least 30 per cent to be declared Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs. Today, we officially challenge others to follow our lead.
A 100 per cent EEZ strategy can provide a regulated and managed ocean buffer between growing coastal populations and the high seas by limiting pollution, controlling fisheries markets, increasing fishstocks, protecting biodiversity, rebuilding ecosystems, and monitoring shipping, among other benefits.
In the Pacific, we see that the oceans are the lifeblood of our environment, of our economies, and of our planet.
That’s why in Fiji, we have called for a 10-year moratorium on seabed mining –– lasting through 2030 –– that will pave the way for a decade of scientific research that allows us to better understand the impact of human activity on our oceans.
That’s why, during our own COP23 presidency, we officially launched the Ocean Pathway to establish a proper role for the Ocean in the UNFCCC process –– a movement that finally came to a head during these negotiations at this Blue COP in Madrid.
And it’s why we stand here today, in support of the idea of a coalition that will reshape the world’s EEZs at a time when big, blue ideas have never been needed more.
My team has started to pull together the suggested guidelines of what a 100 per cent Integrated Ocean Management policy would look like; from governance structures to the sustainable Blue Economy, from blue carbon to leveraging traditional guardianship practices.
We call on all those that are already forward-thinking in their commitment to 30 per cent MPAs by 2030 to join us here –– because without a holistic policy across all our blue space, we will not be able to fully ensure our MPAs.
By 2025, let’s aim to bring together 100 nations to agree to an integrated management of their whole EEZ, determined by a set of guidelines and targets. By doing so, we will trigger critical momentum for a more comprehensive global ocean management architecture or regime that consolidates targets across our EEZs and significantly reduces negative impacts on the high seas.
Ladies and gentlemen, in a pavilion that has sparked many meaningful connections and ideas this week, I hope this gathering will also mark the genesis of something big.
Together, we have the potential to forever turn the tides in the campaign to save our oceans –– so let us seize this opportunity before it’s too late.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.