Bula vinaka everyone, and happy World Oceans Day.
Like many Fijians, I know life at sea. I first earned my sea-legs as a deckhand aboard a yacht under Captain Stanley Brown. I went on to join the Fijian Navy, and, following in the footsteps of my first captain, rose to the rank of Commander. But these days, I have the privilege of steering Fiji’s Blue economy.
Throughout my life, I’ve learned an extraordinary amount about how healthy oceans support human well-being. The seas are home to life that sustains livelihoods and feeds billions. They are the lungs of the planet, keeping our atmosphere habitable by sucking out vast amounts of harmful carbon. And their vast depths hold incredible untapped potential – as I speak, a marine organism from Fijian waters is being studied as a potential cure for the coronavirus. But decades of over-fishing, pollution, and high carbon emissions are pushing ocean ecosystems to their breaking points. If these abuses are left unchecked, my grandchildren’s children won’t know the beautiful reefs and oceanic bounty that define Fijian life.
Fiji is entrusted with protecting over 1.2 million square kilometres of ocean – no small task. But together we’re up for the challenge. Across Fijian waters, we’re replanting coral – with a target of 1 million in one year.
We’re establishing marine protected areas. We’ve banned deep sea-bed mining. We’re stepping up enforcement to stop illegal fishing. We’re restoring and protecting our mangrove forests and seagrass fields. We’re shifting to low-carbon shipping. And, to spare our oceans from a carbon overload, we remain committed to net-zero emissions by 2050. I’m calling on all Fijians to make our ocean action agenda a part of your lives. Don’t litter, respect fishing bans, and help us spark the change the world so badly needs to save our oceans from further degradation.
Vinaka and God Bless!