PACNEWS Interview with the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Mr Tuiloma Neroni Slade

Pacific Islands News Association:

Monday, 09 June 2014

As the globe celebrates World Oceans Day on 08 June, here in the Pacific, our Leaders recognise the need to protect and sustainably manage the region’s oceans resources through the Pacific Oceanscape framework. An initiative within the regional framework is the appointment of an Oceans Commissioner to advocate for oceans issues on behalf of Pacific Island Countries. Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade is the region’s Oceans Commissioner. In a two part series interview, Mr Slade shared with PACNEWS Editor, Makereta Komai his views on his role as Oceans Commissioner and the challenges of the job.

Mr Tuiloma Neroni Slade: Engaging with donors and development partners to ensure the necessary attention is given to ocean priorities at the national, regional and international levels is a key part of my role as Pacific Ocean Commissioner.  Last year, for example, I was elected to a high-level Blue Ribbon Panel, to provide guidance and recommendations on the strategic direction and design of the World Bank led Global Partnership for Oceans.  This Partnership brings together a broad range of stakeholders to tackle overfishing, pollution, and habitat loss. I am also working directly with donors such as Australia and the European Union, and my colleagues at other Pacific regional organizations on development and delivery of their ocean-related programs. The upcoming United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa is another key opportunity for me to advocate on behalf of Pacific Island Countries, particularly during the second day of the conference, which will focus specifically on oceans.

PACNEWS: When Leaders of Forum Island Countries endorsed the Pacific Oceanscape Framework in 2010, they identified six priority areas (establishing jurisdictional rights and responsibilities, fostering good ocean governance, supporting sustainable development, management and conservation,  promoting listening, learning, liasing and leading, sustaining action & facilitating adaptation to a rapidly changing environment) that needed immediate implementation – as Oceans Commissioner and Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat what have you done to advance these priorities for Leaders?

Mr Tuiloma Neroni Slade: Implementation of the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape is a joint effort, and excellent progress is already being made by a wide range of stakeholders including Pacific Island Country governments, non-governmental organizations, donors, and regional and international organizations.  As Pacific Ocean Commissioner I have advocated for improved cooperation, coordination and collaboration amongst these partners, to support effective implementation of ocean-related programs.  I have engaged with these partners directly, through mechanisms such as the Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific (CROP) Marine Sector Working Group, and through a range of other regional and international forums to address the six priority areas identified by Leaders.

PACNEWS: What are some of the challenges of your role?

Mr Tuiloma Neroni Slade: The Pacific Ocean is a shared resource, and as a result there are many stakeholders with varied interests in the ocean.  Some are complementary, some are parallel, and some are competing.  Balancing and negotiating these interests in order to achieve sustainable management of our ocean resources, in a manner which facilitates economic development while also maintaining ecosystem health and biodiversity, is an ongoing challenge.  I believe these challenges, while complex, are well understood in our region and we have shown great leadership and innovation in working together to sustainably manage our oceans.  

PACNEWS: Apart from the declarations of Marine Protected Areas initiative by a number of Forum Islands like Kiribati, Palau and Cook Islands – what more can member countries do protect and sustainably manage their oceans and its abundant resources?

Mr Tuiloma Neroni Slade: The sustainable management and protection of the ocean and its abundant resources is a multi-faceted undertaking, and establishment of Marine Protected Areas is only one tool available to us.  It is important that we develop our understanding of sustainable management of ocean resources beyond the confines of fisheries and conservation.  The ocean influences nearly every aspect of the development agenda, particularly for Pacific Island Countries.  It influences transport and accessibility, food security, tourism, health, economic development, culture and heritage.  If we can think of the ocean in such an integrated manner, we will be making great strides toward successful sustainable management of our ocean. 

PACNEWS: What is key message for International Oceans Day?

Mr Tuiloma Neroni Slade: Our ocean is a valuable shared resource which requires careful management.  No one nation or industry is solely responsible for putting pressure on our ocean, nor can any one entity find the solution in isolation. We are a sea of islands in a common ocean, and the actions of one are felt by all. It is simple - we cannot protect and manage our ocean without working together. For this reason we welcome and commend the theme of this year’s World Oceans Day – ‘Together we have the power to protect the ocean’.

Read interview: Pacific Islands News Association

zoom out zoom in print this page