PEIN Marine Digest - March 2009: A digest of Pacific marine news and developments

Pacific Environment Information Network [PEIN] Marine Digest

 A digest of Pacific marine news and developments

[*The PEIN project is coordinated by the SPREP Information Resource Centre ]

March 2009

New Rules For Whale Watching In The Pacific
KGMB9 News - 29 March 2009
The first regional guidelines for responsible whale and dolphin watching across the Pacific Islands were launched Sunday on the eve of the first International Conference for Marine Mammal Protected Areas in Maui, Hawaii. Developed by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and Opération Cétacés, the Pacific Regional Guidelines for Whale & Dolphin Watching aim to minimise the potential impacts of tourism activities on whales and dolphins and their environment. The Pacific Islands region is an important habitat for more than thirty species of cetaceans. It provides a vital breeding ground and migration corridor for many species, including endangered populations of humpback whales. The presence and diversity of marine mammals in the region has led to a whale watching industry that generates more than US $21 million each year and that is growing at a staggering rate of 45 per cent annually...more ....Guide available from

Outcomes from FFA's US & Indonesia talks
FFA - 24 MARCH 2009
The members of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Secretariat have had separate meetings with Indonesia and the US this month to discuss issues of common concern to the Pacific Islands and these countries.:

The Multilateral Treaty on Fisheries Between Certain Governments of the Pacific Island States and the Government of the United States of America (commonly referred to as the "US Treaty") held its 21st Annual Consultation between the Pacific Island Parties and the United States, in Koror Palau from 12-13 March;

The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Republic of Indonesia has conducted "The Preliminary Consultation on Future Cooperation Between The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries and The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)" held in the Grand Bali Hotel, Nusa Dua on 17th March 2009 outcomes from these meetings

Fiji Times - 23 March 2009
Focus to be ballast water management. A regional task force is to be formed to spearhead issues on ballast water management in Pacific Island countries. It is the result of a regional workshop in Suva on the management of ships' ballast water. "It was clear in everyone's mind that no one country can tackle this issue on its own, that once we have an invasion there is little that can be done so prevention and precautionary approach is to be taken," said marine pollution adviser Anthony Talouli from Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program...more

Solomons to host talks on dolphin trade
SMH - 18 March 2009
The Solomon Islands Government will host a forum to discuss the controversial issue of the country's international dolphin trade. The Solomons Ministry for Environment, Conservation and Meteorology along with stakeholders and NGOs will meet on Thursday for talks on the capture and sale of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. "The forum is part of [the Solomons Government's] continuing effort to ensure the export of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is sustainable and conducted in a transparent fashion," the Government said in a statement...more

American Samoa in mid-Pacific found to harbor a dozen kinds of toothed whales
Duke Research - 13 March 2009
Historic whaling records and anecdotal sightings have long suggested that many species of whales and dolphins live or breed in the remote waters of American Samoa, the only U.S. territory in the Southern Hemisphere. Conservation of these animals, which are considered protected species under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, has been hindered by a lack of scientific data on their abundance, distribution, composition and stock structure. Two surveys led by a Duke University marine biologist are helping fill in those gaps. Results of the surveys, published last month in the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management, confirm the presence of at least seven species of whales and dolphins previously believed to live or breed in American Samoa. They also provide the first confirmed sightings of four additional species: bottlenose dolphins, false killer whales, rough-toothed dolphins and dwarf sperm whales...more

Pacific Islands Report - 12 March 2009
U.S. Ambassador Leslie Rowe announced the continued U.S. support of the Coral Triangle Initiative at the Senior Officials Meeting and Ministerial Meeting in Port Moresby. The U.S. Government has pledged nearly $40 million [US$5.7 million] to support the international effort to save the Coral Triangle, the world's greatest expanse of mangroves, coral reefs and diversity of fish, currently under threat from pollution, unsustainable fishing practices and climate change. Papua New Guinea is one of six countries to benefit from the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI). The CTI seeks to protect 6 million square kilometers of ocean and coasts, an area that has been called the "Amazon of the Seas" for its biodiversity. The Coral Triangle, where the Indian and Pacific oceans meet, is home to 30 percent of the world's coral reefs representing 75 percent of the known coral species...more

RNZI - 10 March 2009
An Australian exploration company, Bluewater Metals South Pacific, will begin looking for high-grade copper, gold, zinc and silver deposits in Tonga's waters later this year. Tonga doesn't have many metal deposits on land, but experts say its waters might be a rich source. The company's Chief Executive Officer, Timothy McConachy, told the Matagi Tonga that they plan to explore an area of 65,000 square metres of Tonga's oceanfloor. Mr McConachy says it's unclear whether the minerals they are looking for are commercially viable until they complete the exploration. he company was granted their Mineral Prospecting License last year and is also operating in PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and has applications to work in Fiji.

PACIFIC UPDATE: New Warming Warning: 25 metres
Islands Business - March 2009
If global warming rates continue to explode, sea level rise by the end of the century may be as much as 25 metres. Forecasting models developed by the IPCC, the International Panel on Climate Change, the UK Independent reports, "may be woefully misleading." NASA scientist Jim Hansen points out an inconvenient truth from ice and earth sampling-that when global temperatures increased 2 to 3 degrees above today's weather some 3.5 million years ago, sea levels rose by 25 metres, not the 59 cm being predicted by IPCC. "Feedback" mechanisms-such as highly reflective white ice melting into highly absorbent dark oceans-means an ever accelerating rate of global warming. Last month, Gary Shaffer of the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark warned that global warming could create vast "dead zones" across oceans.
Even though there will be more ocean, warmer water circulates more slowly.
The BBC quotes Shaffer as saying there now had to be a "question mark" placed over future generations considering the oceans as a major food source. These dead zones could last between 1500 and 2000 years, adds Jens Olaf Pepke Pedersen, a physicist at the Technical University of Denmark. These are just three of a series of high profile warnings that global warming timeframes are imploding, starting two years ago with statements from organisations like Greenpeace and WWF... more

Pacific Islands warned about letting invasive species into their waters
RNZI - 10 March 2009
There are calls for Pacific Island countries to tackle the introduction of invasive species into their waters. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, or SPREP, are meeting in Suva, Fiji to convey the issue to representatives in the Pacific region. SPREP's Marine Pollution Advisor Anthony Talouli says invasive species can either be carried in through ballast water used to stabilise unladen ships and through fouling on the ships' hull. He says there is limited awareness of the threat posed by foreign organisms being shipped into the Pacific. "It affects fisheries, so people's livelihoods and their source of income. It also affects their health. The invasive species could produce very poisoness and toxic substances that could be absorbed by seashells, fish, and when eaten by humans, could then cause severe health effects." Anthony Talouli says SPREP and IMO are now aiming to sign up countries to a Ballast Water Management Convention to create more awareness.

Pacific islands meet to save Marine Turtles
SPREP - 6 March 2009
Marine turtle conservation efforts throughout the Pacific region are driven by the sad fact that all marine turtle species are now experiencing serious threats to their survival. When over 30 Marine turtle conservationists and specialists from the Pacific Islands region came together to "talk turtle" in February, it led to outcomes to enhance the work of saving our marine turtles. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), in collaboration with WWF South Pacific Programme and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), coordinated the two-day Pacific islands region marine turtle meeting in Australia prior to the International Sea Turtle Society's 29th Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation...more

Pacific Islands Regional Plan of Action for Sharks - call for consultancy
SPREP - 5 March 2009
The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), in a collaborative effort on behalf of their members, are developing a Pacific Islands - Regional Plan of Action for Sharks (PI-RPOA). The PI-RPOA will provide Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTS) with a framework for considering and developing management arrangements for shark species that address regional management obligations...more

3 Major Reports Paint Same Picture: Ocean Fish Are Rapidly in Decline
TheDailyGreen - 4 March 2009
Fish, both big and small, suffering from overfishing, climate change, acidification, agricultural runoff - and U.S. taxpayer subsidies. The onslaught of bad news about the worlds oceans continues. We already have learned that overfishing at current rates will deplete 90% of the world's commercial fish by mid-century. We've learned that ocean acidification, as the oceans absorb our carbon dioxide emissions, will bleach coral prevent, prevent the plankton at the base of the food web from forming shells and ultimately compromise our food supply. We've learned that when you add up overfishing, acidification, pollution from agricultural and urban runoff and habitat destruction, its a recipe for returning the oceans to a primordial stew of algae and jellyfish. Today, three new reports all paint the same picture ...more

Pacific Islands Report - 3 March 2009
The Pacific Concerns Resource Centre, or PCRC, says it's strongly opposed to plans for France to ship nearly two tonnes of recycled nuclear fuel to Japan. The French nuclear group Areva has confirmed that it will be shipping a blend of plutonium and reprocessed uranium, or mixed oxide, along one of three possible routes - via the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Horn or the Panama Canal. Greenpeace says two ships from Britain's Pacific Nuclear Transport company, each with armed police on board, would this week take on board the fuel at the northern French port of Cherbourg. The PCRC's Tupou Vere says the shipment poses a grave risk to the ocean environment that Pacific people rely on. "We are calling on the British, French and the Japanese governments to stop the shipment. One other concern that we have is that to date, there has been no mechanism worked out on the liability and who should accept liability for any collateral damage done as a result of the shipment."

Water plan helps Kiribati prepare for sea level rise
InScience - 2 March 2009
The central Pacific nation of Kiribati has taken a leap forward in protecting itself against the effects of climate-related sea level rise thanks to a project led by The Australian National University. Most of the atolls and islands of Kiribati stand less than six metres above mean sea level, which means they will be partly inundated if sea levels rise to the extent predicted in climate change forecasts. Because of its vulnerability, Kiribati was one of the first countries in the world to be selected under the Global Environmental Facility Strategic Priority on Adaptation. This project provides adaptation strategies for countries at risk from climate change. During extensive consultations throughout the islands, communities were asked for suggestions on adaptation strategies. Seven out of the top ten strategies identified were concerned with access to freshwater, water quality and the protection of freshwater sources. It was found that many of the freshwater problems arose because Kiribati had no wide-scale water resource policies or plans to draw on. An international effort set out to remedy this, drawing on over 30 years experience working in Kiribati. The project was led by Professor Ian White from the Fenner School of Environment and Society at ANU, and involved experts from Australia, Kiribati, Fiji and France...more

Leatherback hatching in numbers on Tetepare [Solomon Islands]
Contributed by Frank Wickham - 2 March 2009
LEATHERBACK turtles are hatching in record numbers on Tetepare Island, in the Western Province, as rangers work to save the critically endangered species from extinction. Almost 300 leatherback turtle babies have hatched from nests on Tetepare, just six weeks into the three-month-long hatching season. And 290 endangered green turtles have hatched from nests on the conservation island this year. Conservation staff from the Tetepare Descendants' Association (TDA) have declared this turtle hatching season the most successful since their turtle conservation program began five years ago...On nearby Rendova Island, community turtle monitors from Baniata, Havilla and Retavo are also protecting leatherback nests on their local beaches as part of a TDA-run community incentive program to conserve turtles. Almost 260 leatherbacks have hatched on Rendova beaches so far this year.

Survey on leatherback turtles nests reveals alarmingly low numbers
RNZI - 1 March 2009
A survey on leatherback turtle nests in Papua New Guinea has revealed alarmingly low numbers, sparking fears of extinction. In January, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme was contracted by the Western Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Council to carry out the survey on Bougainville Island. SPREP's Coastal Management Advisor, Jeff Kinch ,spent six days conducting research on turtle nests and spreading awareness of the importance of leatherbacks with local communities. He says the survey recorded 46 leatherback turtle nests and predicts there are only nine to 15 adults left in Bougainville. "In general in Bougainville the future of the leatherback turtle I think is questionable given the low population nesting density now. Basically all the eggs are being consumed and adult turtles up until the recent past have been regularly killed and consumed as well." Jeff Kinch says greater efforts must be made to prevent local communities from helping themselves to turtle eggs...more

Nauru NFMRA's new website is online
SPC - March 2009
The Nauru Fisheries and Marine Resources Authority (NFMRA) is the Statutory Authority that manages fisheries on behalf of the sovereign Republic of Nauru. Their new website provides information about Nauru fisheries, including texts of laws and scientific and technical reports, as well as NMFRA services and contacts...go to the website