Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Pacific nations seek international action to tackle worries about sea rise, destructive fishing and globalisation

12 Jun 2002 -- Rome – Worried about a likely rise in sea levels, destructive fishing practices and globalisation, top leaders of Pacific island nations attending a UN food security summit here have sought international action to help them tackle these threats.

The Heads of State and Government of Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga reminded the 183 nations gathered at the 10 to 13 June 2002 World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl) of the distinctive risks to food security in the Pacific island states. Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are represented at senior government levels at the summit. Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Forum Secretariat are also attending.

[…] The President of Marshall Islands, Kessai H. Note told the summit that his country, which has an average elevation of about two metres above sea level, would be among the first to be affected by a rise in sea level caused by global climate change. “If nothing is done now about climate change, then I am afraid the Marshallist people would become among the first of many environmental refugees. Everything we do here as to poverty alleviation and food security would come to nought in the near future, at least for my people and for my country,” he pointed out.

Endorsing the plea, the Prime Minister of Cook Islands, Robert Woonton, reminded the summit that this was one of the several areas in which the WFS had recommended international action: “Climate change…can have potentially disastrous effects on our agricultural production, not to mention our overall national security. It is essential, therefore, that states that are the major emitters of greenhouse gases make significant, early reductions in their emission levels. We call on them to do so.”

The Prime Minister of Tonga, HRH Ulukalala Lavaka Ata, said that rising tides have cut up the historic ancient seat of the Kingdom of Tonga into small islands. “Thus, understandably it is becoming more difficult to focus on agriculture when the very existence of parts of the Kingdom is now under question,” he told the summit in his address today.

The Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa S. Malielagaoi in his statement today added that his country was already feeling the negative effects of climate change: “Seasonal crops continue to deviate from their normal months of season. Unpredictable weather has caused detrimental effects on harvest quality and quantity.”

[…] The President of Kiribati, Teburoro Tito, told the summit that local fisherfolk in his country were complaining about the practices used by foreign fishing vessels that have sharply reduced the local tuna catch. He called on foreign nations fishing in the Pacific island nations to end indiscriminate catches by enlarging the net sizes.
“My Government encourages international cooperation in improving the mesh size and design of these nets to prevent further indiscriminate catching of small and non-targeted fish and to ensure greater sustainability of these resources as part and parcel of the food security in the context of the Rome Declaration,” he said.

[…] Pacific island leaders also raised concerns about the likely impact of globalisation on their fragile economies and called for reform of the international agricultural trading system.

RAP 02/26