As we mark World Oceans Day, Pacific climate change expert Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson writes from Samoa on the significance of ocean management on small island nations and coastal villages. She explains the important role that communities play in sustainable ocean management as they continue to respond to the reality of climate change and its impacts. Photo shows the Moata’a Walkway, which was officially opened on World Oceans Day in Samoa, Friday 8 June, 2018. Image Credit: Government of Samoa.
The Chiefs of the village of Moata’a on the island of Upolu signed a community declaration on oceans yesterday to commemorate World Oceans Day in Samoa. It also reaffirmed their joint commitment towards protecting mangrove wetlands and coastal areas within their community.
This stand-alone action, although miniscule in the grander scheme of things, is actually what the greater conservation community needs now. Indeed, it aligns with the action-oriented approach now undertaken under the climate convention.
For far too long, our global community has relied on the actions of nations, of corporations, and of large scale entities to make a difference in conserving our ocean resources, minimising the impacts of climate change and managing the fallout from any subsequent residual damage. Yes – that is still an important pursuit – but the ones who suffer, those whose livelihoods depend on these ecosystems should also take their own respective actions.
Small island developing states, coastal communities, a couple of hundred villagers, are not fully integrated into the conversation when global policies, high-level responses and large scale actions are truly considered. But, at island scale, communities are the cornerstone of national action, and it is through the leadership of foresight of chiefs and community leaders, that such change can manifest in local action.
Matareva Beach Fales also initiated the World Oceans Day event with local and global partners demonstrating their personal commitment to maintaining healthy oceans and clean beaches.
For as long as I can remember, island leaders have outlined point by point the impact of climate change on our oceans, on our land, on our people of islands. And for many years, global actions have focussed on agendas set forth by those with larger land masses, more populations and more money. This conversation has shifted over the years, in part due to the leadership of island Ambassadors to the United Nations, of leaders who persist in the face of adversity and of individuals who pursue solutions in their own small ways.
The Community Declaration by Moata’a is one such action, and one that I have seen in many villages across Samoa, who have taken it upon themselves to manage their own environment whether it be mangroves, fish reserves or key coastal features. Taumeasina Resort, located in the same community has also signed the Declaration committing to minimising damage to the coastal areas by tourism-related activities.
When the management of oceans, in this case wetlands, is lead by a village, it gives them a sense of ownership and empowers them to protect what is theirs, and in that way assures enforcement that is far more sustainable than those enforced by external authority.
Yes there are challenges. There are times when a village decides to serve up giant clams from a reserve to visiting dignitaries. But those are isolated incidences and ones that can be managed when clear guidelines are laid out. In the case of this particular community, the monthly meeting of the Council of Chiefs will monitor any infringements such as waste dumping into the mangrove area, cutting or harming of the mangroves and littering on the beaches. Stringent fines already exist and the Declaration has codified their commitment to enforcing the rules.
For islands like ours, where livelihoods are highly dependent on oceans, it is important to understand that the pressures such as unsustainable fishing practices and climate change continues to pose a great threat to this source of income for our coastal communities. As such, sustainable management of our oceans through effective community action is the hope we need now.