6 March 2023
Panama – A Tonga delegation, led by Acting Minister of Fisheries and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Honourable Lord Fohe, joined over 600 representatives at the 8th Our Ocean Conference in Panama, last week to celebrate action and find sustainable solutions for a healthy ocean.
The 2-day conference, starting March 2 fostered collaborative dialogue between heads of governments, private sector, civil society, and academic institutions to deliver concrete commitments protecting and restoring marine resources, promoting sustainable use, and educating the public about the ocean.
The Conference, themed, “Our Ocean, Our Connection,” focused on six broad areas of action, including: promoting marine protected areas, fostering a sustainable blue economy, tackling the climate crisis, supporting maritime security, advancing sustainable fisheries, and combating marine pollution.
At the margin of the Conference, the Acting Minister of Fisheries and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Honourable Lord Fohe joined high-level speakers at the Blue Prosperity Reception, among them, the Honorable Prime Minister of Fiji Sitiveni Rabuka, Minister of Tourism from Panama Honourable Ivan Eskildsen, and Special Envoy for Climate Change from Vanuatu Honourable Bakoa Kaltonga.
Lord Fohe highlighted that the Pacific is an oceanic region with 2% land mass and 98% water with the largest and deepest ocean basin on Earth.
Minister Lord Fohe explained: “It is critical we understand the connection between ecosystems from the Highlands to the High Seas which underpin security and livelihoods.”
“Our islands are highly vulnerable to extreme weather events, and nature-positive approaches is the way forward to effectively addressing the triple planetary crisis of pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change, and the nexus with the ocean,” he continued.
“Understanding ecological impacts strengthens our resilience and sustains valuable ecosystem services allowing us to explore real options for investments in blue and green growth. It will allow us
to evaluate trade-offs and identify co-benefits with adaptation and mitigation measures,” he said.
The Minister highlighted that the Government of Tonga recognizes that nature is the foundation of life, underpinning human security, well-being, and sustainable development. Some of the key factors threatening ocean biodiversity and community livelihoods:
• Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing
• Marine pollution and Deep Sea Mining
• Coastal overharvesting of resources
• Lack of an appropriate knowledge-base and related-capacities for real-time decision-making
To alleviate these pressures and achieve sustainable benefits, the Government of Tonga:
• has committed 30% no-take marine areas, and 100% marine areas under management consistent with IUCN’s Protected Area Categories and SDG 14 through its national marine spatial plan and planning process;
• has established 64 Special Management Areas
• Continues to engage at the International Seabed Authority to ensure robust evidence-based fully- informed, and legally sound governance of all activities in the Area;
• Continues to engage at ongoing negotiations, currently underway, for a legally binding treaty to govern the sustainable use and conservation of our marine biodiversity in areas beyond
• Are also taking a nexus approach, understanding regime interaction and harmonization of local to global governance frameworks and their implications that will allow us to – do more,
Moving forward, the Government of Tonga continues to call upon the global community to support:
• The ongoing implementation of the Agreement on Ports State Measures to combat IUU fishing;
• Integrated and climate-smart Land and Marine Spatial Plans, Compliance and its Implementation;
• Blue Economy, Blue Food Systems and sustainable value chains;
• Combating Marine pollution
• Mainstreaming a Highlands to High Seas approach into policies and action plans for improved cohesion, cooperation, coordination and collaboration;
• Strengthening cooperation, partnerships for sustainable outcomes
Accompanying the Minister to the conference were Ministry of Fisheries Chief Executive Officer Dr. Tuikolongahau Halafihi, Ministry of Meterology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications Advisor Dr. Fononga Vainga Mangisi-Mafileo, and Jeanett Vea.
The conference began in 2014 as a U.S. Department of State initiative to draw international attention to the serious threats facing the world’s ocean and to commit to concrete action around the globe to support marine conservation and sustainable development.
Sasakawa Peace Foundation side event
Minister Lord Fohe also joined a High-Level Panel on Blue Economy: Building Better Opportunities, hosted by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.
Speakers included, President of Palau His Excellency Surangel Whipps Jr, Fiji Minister of Fisheries and Forestry His Excellency Kalaveti Ravu, Japan’s Minister of State His Excellency Tsuyoshi Hoshino, and Jamaica’s Minister of Economic Growth and Job Creation His Excellency Matthew Samuda.
The event heard that the ocean is a primary source of nutrition, jobs, and income for an estimated 2 out of 5 people, globally. For the ocean to continue to contribute to the global economy requires sustainability to be at the heart of development.