World Wetlands Day at SPREP

06/02/2007

The Pacific Regional Environment Programme



Press Release: Nature Conservation
http://www.sprep.org/article/news_detail.asp?id=334

2007 World Wetlands Day targets Fisheries
01-Feb-07

This year, World Wetlands Day celebrates on February 2 the importance of the fisheries sector. The theme - Fish for Tomorrow – draws attention to the role that wetlands play in supporting and sustaining fisheries throughout the world.

The coastal wetlands (mangroves and coral reefs) of the Pacific region play a dominant role in the lives of coastal people. Coastal resources mean food, income, employment, and form a significant part of customary and traditional lifestyle pursuits of dependent communities.

World Wetlands Day is an annual event commemorating the date of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

The survival of inland and coastal fisheries depends on healthy and functional nurseries for fish, known as wetlands. Mangroves are typical wetlands that support deep-ocean and most coastal species that make up fish catches. Aquaculture ponds, also known as artificial wetlands under the Ramsar Convention, are important for commercial fish and shrimp farming activities.

The Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Mr Asterio Takesy, believes that the responsibility lies with us all to conserve and raise our awareness of the utility of wetlands.

“I am pleased to note that the theme for the 2007 World Wetlands Day is fisheries because of the importance this sector holds in the lives of coastal communities,” Takesy said.

“We are all obligated to protect these rich marine bastions; that means we need to relook at our harvesting practices and tread cautiously with development as these challenge the sustainability and health of our coastal and mangrove resources.”

Pacific Island people have traditionally relied on fish for generations as their most important source of protein. The consumption of fish on coral atolls and low-lying islands is at its highest because small land areas combined with poor soil quality has meant slow agricultural development. For example, the annual seafood consumption in Kiribati almost reaches 160kg per person annually. This figure far surpasses the global consumption average of approximately 12kg per person per year. Although agriculture is well developed on the high islands of the region, fish consumption rates are quite high there, too.

A decline in the health and coverage of mangroves and coral reefs has resulted in smaller catches of inshore fish species valued for both subsistence and income. This has indeed been the case in some Pacific Island countries due to mangrove clearance for development, pressure by population growth and associated increase in demand for fish, degradation by pollution and unsustainable fishing methods such as the use of dynamite on reefs. There is also concern over threats from the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

Dominique Benzaken, SPREP’s Coastal Management Adviser, said that the role of wetlands cannot be overemphasised and that we need to focus on good coastal management.

“Often people remain focused on coral reefs and forget that coral reef and mangrove ecosystems are linked and should be considered jointly.”

“Climate change will impact coastal ecosystems in a number of ways. Some of these impacts are associated with sea level rise. That means a likely receding of coastlines and mangrove habitats. Another impact would result from rising temperatures, which will impact coral reefs; it’s possible that we’ll see changes in perhaps the frequency and location of coral bleaching.”

“Having said that, how we use those habitats is critical because if we clear mangroves we automatically weaken the resilience of those ecosystems to climate change. We have to focus strongly on good coastal management to deal with the impact of climate change in a better way.”

Contact Name Vainuupo Jungblut
e-mail VainuupoJ@sprep.org
Phone (685) 21929
Fax (685) 20231

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