Island states agree conservation goals

Posted: 29 March 2006

Leaders from a number of island nations around the world, meeting at the UN biodiversity conference in Curitiba, Brazil, have agreed significant conservation commitments to protect the future of islands.

The President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, announced agreement on the Micronesia Challenge last night. This aims to protect 30 per cent of near-shore marine and 20 per cent of terrestrial resources on the islands by 2020.

Inspired by its Micronesian counterparts in the Pacific, the Caribbean nation of Grenada pledged to put 25 per cent of near-shore marine and 25 per cent of terrestrial resources under effective conservation by 2020. The Declaration, approved by Grenada's Cabinet, will lead to a nine-fold increase in the total area of protection in Grenada's marine environment and more than double protection of its terrestrial environment.

Welcoming the accord, a consortium of environmental agencies, said the world's islands are home to more than 500 million people and represent one quarter of the nations of the world, 16 per cent of the planet's known plant species and more than half of the world's tropical marine biodiversity.

Thirty per cent of the world's coral reefs are severely damaged and, without immediate action 60 per cent may be lost by 2030. Half of the species in the world that have become extinct have been island species. Without immediate action, islands face continued damage to species, biodiversity and human inhabitants' way of life.

CBD target

"We intend to be the first in the world to meet our CBD 10 per cent target, and more," said President Remengesau, referring to the goal adopted by parties to the Convention to effectively conserve at least 10 per cent of each of the world's ecological regions.

He emphasized that Palau is able to make this commitment because of the strong partnerships within Palau, between the National and State governments, and with traditional leaders and local communities. "We have come to Curitiba for partnerships, at every level, that will strengthen our region's and our respective islands' capacity to meet our conservation commitments."

"Efforts to ensure the health, prosperity and cultural heritage of nations are unlikely to succeed if the ecosystem services on which we rely continue to be degraded," said Minister Ann David-Antoine from Grenada's Ministry of the Environment. "Expanding conservation efforts and achieving them through partnerships with the international conservation community and across all regions are required for our sustainable development."

"For the islands this is a new dimension on how to preserve our fragile reserves for future generations. Our traditional way of conserving has been reawakened through this global concern to protect our fragile resources," said Ratu Aisea Katonivere, Chief of the Macuata community in Fiji, a province of 100,000 people, and home of the world's third largest barrier reef. "For us, in Fiji, this is about our survival. Our life."

The announcements by Micronesia and Grenada generated enthusiastic responses, including new conservation commitments and actions from New Zealand, Indonesia, Kiribati and others.

NGO support

The NGO community has promised to provide technical and financial support to help islands meet their commitments. "Islands provide a unique opportunity to expand conservation through global collaboration. To continue the momentum from tonight's inspiring announcements will require coordination from governments, NGOs, local communities and donor countries to work together for the long-term conservation of these global treasures," said Nigel Purvis, The Nature Conservancy's Vice President for External Affairs.

"The Pacific is home to the most vulnerable islands in the world. It's a great challenge to have a programme that aims for the survival of its rich biodiversity and the fascinating cultures of its people across Oceania," said Francois Martel, Director of the Pacific Island Program for Conservation International (CI). "Conservation in this region is all about people and their traditional stewardship," he added.

James Leape, Director General of WWF International, said: "WWF applauds the leadership shown by these governments to address the escalating threats facing the world's coral reefs and island habitats, and urges nations everywhere to support these significant commitments, as their success or failure will have global ramifications."

"Many of the World Conservation Union's government and NGO members are eager to step up conservation efforts in islands, whose extremely threatened biodiversity is the basis for the livelihoods of millions of people," said Martha Chouchena-Rojas, Head of the delegation for the World Conservation Union (IUCN). "The launch of this new island partnership, in combination with the adoption of the CBD Programme of Work on Island Biodiversity, will certainly help to lift our game."

The Micronesia Challenge is a shared commitment by the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Territory of Guam. Grenada's 2020 vision is an outgrowth of the successful Grenadines Parks in Peril project.

The Eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)in Curitiba is taking place from March 20-31.