Climate change, acidification and over-fishing are all contributing to an ever-changing ocean landscape.
But, as waters warm, sea levels rise, fishing industries collapse, and the cost to the environment grows, the challenge to human populations who rely on the ocean’s resources becomes as urgent as the problem is enormous.
For Kiribati, a tiny Pacific island half the size of London and continually plagued by climate-change induced food and water shortages, the dire situation sparked an unprecedented effort to tackle the challenges that wash up daily on their doorstep.
The island’s President, Anote Tong, who first conceived the idea, presented the ambitious initiative at a forum for Pacific Islands in Kiribati four years ago.
A year later, the framework for the Pacific Oceanscape, (the cooperative stewardship of the shared ocean territories) was presented and unanimously agreed upon by 15 of the participating Pacific Island nations.
Now the world’s “largest integrated conservation and ocean management initiative by area”, the marine park encompasses 40 million square kilometres of ocean – that’s 10 per cent of the world’s total ocean surface – and includes some of the most pristine and coral rich waters.
The vital waters also hold economically importance; with some of the largest remaining stock of tuna, they provide half of the world’s tuna catch.
Marine biologist and conservationist Dr. Greg Stone, of the Conservation International, says that the Pacific Oceanscape is “a watershed moment”.
“We’ve now taken a big chunk of our largest ocean on the Earth…We’re going to manage this sustainably. We’re going to manage this in a fashion that will increase humanity’s well-being in this area.”
Tuiloma Neroni Slade, a Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner, agrees: “It’s a pledge to ourselves to safeguard our home,” he says.
But it is becoming increasingly clear that the Pacific Island nations – by pledging to protect one of nature’s greatest gifts – are working tirelessly to safeguard their home, not just for their communities, but for all of us.
Watch this video on the work currently being carried out for the Pacific Oceanscape and meet the communities whose future it is helping to protect: