PEIN Marine Digest - April 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 ]


Assessing Potential Oil Spills from WWII Wrecks in the FSM
Solomon Times Online - 27 April 2009
Oil, chemicals and unexploded ordinance from an estimated 800 World War II Wrecks throughout the exclusive economic zones of Pacific Island countries and territories pose imminent danger to people, environment and fisheries of the region.
Of this total, more than 50 World War II shipwrecks can be found in Chuuk lagoon alone. Chuuk, formerly Truk, is one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia requesting assistance from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to assess the environmental risk posed by these wrecks. In April, SPREP's Marine Pollution Adviser Anthony Talouli visited Chuuk after an Earthwatch Report assessed the leaking wrecks in Chuuk, one of the World's best dive spots, and found a number of areas of concern...more

 Praise for government progress on seabed legislation [ Cook Islands ]
Contributed by Ana Tiraa - 24 April 2009
Marine biologist Tap Pryor says he is impressed with government's progress towards well-managed exploitation of the resource. Pryor presented his submission on the Seabed Minerals Bill to the parliamentary select committee on Wednesday. Pryor has lived and worked in Rarotonga since 1989, first joining the office of the prime minister as special projects director and then deputy chief of staff - it was during that time that he became involved in government's review of the manganese resource. In his written submission on the Seabed Minerals Bill to the select committee, Pryor says he is aware from attending public meetings that there remain some environmental concerns about the exploration and mining of the nodules. He says these concerns seem to fall into the categories of disturbing seabed ecology, harming marine life and the social impact.

Pacific Islands Report - 23 April 2009
Flooded houses. Inundated farmland. A collapsed seawall. Mud-filled roads. Contaminated taro patches. These were among the graphic images of devastating high-tide coastal inundation events in the Pacific that were presented at the annual Pacific Partners meeting of the Pacific Risk Management 'Ohana (PRiMO), held in Tumon, Guam, on the 18th and 19th of March, 2009. PRiMO is a consortium of local, national, and regional agencies, institutions, and organizations committed to enhancing hazard resilience in the Pacific. This year's meeting, which focused on inundation-related coastal hazards, was attended by approximately 80 participants representing governments, academia, and non-governmental organizations. Historically held in Honolulu, the meeting was moved to Guam this year to facilitate the participation of partners from the Western Pacific...more

DOLPHIN ISLAND IN SOLOMONS UP FOR SALE: Controversial business in exporting dolphins included
Pacific Islands Report - 23 April 2009
The controversial dolphin island of Gavutu in the Central Islands Province will be on sale as of next week for $50 million (US$7.2 million). Director of Solomon Islands Mammal Marine Entertainment Centre (SIMMEC) and Marine Export Limited (MEL) Christopher Porter told the Solomon Star yesterday tenders will be out soon. "There is still no potential buyer but once formalities are being made the tender will be issued," he said. Mr. Porter said the sale will be done in consultation with all stakeholders and in a transparent manner. He said the value of the property is reasonable considering the cost of a dolphin. In the past it costs $150 per dolphin [US$21.50] but now it costs $2 million [US$287, 000] for a dolphin overseas and its a lucrative business, the Canadian said...more

Oprah Highlights Massive Pacific Trash Vortex (Of Doom)
Ecorazzy - 23 April 2009
As part of Oprah's Earth Day special yesterday, the 55-year-old host devoted time to discussing the health of oceans - and the serious waste found floating in them. Of particular interest was the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" - an area of floating trash estimated to be twice the size of Texas, and in some places 90ft. deep. Oprah described it as "the most shocking thing I have seen"... view the clip from on "Garbage Island"

Cook Islands lodges submission with UN to secure access to additional areas of seabed
Isria - 22 April 2009
Potentially lucrative seabed resources include oil and gas reserves, mineral deposits and living marine organisms . The Cook Islands has lodged a submission with the United Nations (UN) to secure access to additional areas of seabed for the benefit of present and future generations. It is the first Pacific Islands Country to do so. Securing exclusive access and jurisdictional certainty to the potentially lucrative resources of the seabed is considered by many coastal states to be crucial for their future development. The benefits of these resources - which include oil and gas reserves, mineral deposits and living marine organisms - are potentially enormous, particularly for small island nations and developing coastal states. These potential resources led the Government of Cook Islands to lodge a submission with the UN concerning the outer limits of the continental shelf. In the submission, made on 16 April 2009, the Cook Islands re-affirmed its rights to half a million square kilometres of continental shelf beyond the traditional 200 nautical mile limit...more

Games organisers wait for coral removal reports [Cook Islands]
Contributed by Ana Tiraa - 22 April 2009
Pacific Mini Games CEO Mac Mokoroa says the proposal to remove coral from Muri lagoon for an oe vaka course is still on hold while environmental reports are being completed. Mokoroa told Radio New Zealand International earlier this month that around eight coral outcrops could be removed and replanted in other parts of the lagoon as part of the proposal. The Cook Islands Canoeing Club is seeking a location where they can put a 500 metre by 150 metre course to meet the requirements of the code. The games organising committee is looking now at deepening part of the Muri lagoon so the outrigger canoeing events can be held there. Landowners and residents of Muri have voiced some opposition to any coral being removed because of environmental protection issues.

Pacific Islands Report - 21 April 2009
Side by side, the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, in conjunction with University of Hawaii, US geological Survey and the FSM National Government, Office of the Environment and Emergency, are working together to assess the threats to coastal ecosystem services in the face of global climate change here in the FSM. Dr. Chip Fletcher and Dr. Bruce Richmond will be visiting the FSM from April 19th to May 8th, 2009 to assess the extent and consequences of coastal erosion in each state. They will meet with Government officials to initiate development of a comprehensive coastal protection strategy and work to improve the understanding of the effects of coastal erosion, and it's acceleration as a result of sea level rise, on the ability to provide for ecosystem services and support the existing populations...more

Sewage pollutes corals, seagrass [Solomon Islands]
Seagrass Watch - 21 April 2009
The continued discharge of untreated sewage into the coastal lines and streams is responsible for the deterioration of the coral reefs, a Marine researcher said. John Fairfax, an Australian Researcher said in Solomon Islands this problem is now evident. He said in Honiara and parts of the country such as Auki and in the Western Province, sewage disposal is an issue which the government must seek to resolve and address. Since the 1980s Mr Fairfax had been visiting the country to monitor and study the coral reef ecosystems. He said for coral reefs to thrive, they must grow in clean shallow water with a low density of anthropogenic nutrients, a stable density of salt, moderate temperature and bright sunshine. He pointed out evidence of this is the number of algae that grew rapidly and completely covered the coral and seagrass, resulting in their death. Scientists said that coral reefs are natural habitats for more than 25 percent of marine life and fish output from the reefs accounts for 12 percent of the global fish catch. They are also important because they help protect the coastline, minimize beach erosion caused by big waves and tsunamis, and nurture coastal fishery resources, he said. Full story and source:

 Fiji's pristine beauty threatened by severe pollution
SeaGrass Watch e-bulletin - 21 April 2009
The global economy and the political unrest in Fiji have both dealt blows to the island nation's tourism industry. However, there is another problem just beneath the surface. Locals say some popular tourist spots along the Coral Coast are swimming in wastewater and the evidence has been caught by a 3 News camera. Conservation groups say the draw card spot is overrun with seaweed, algal bloom and dead coral as sewage seeps through the sandy soils from the village next door. The village is working with a Christchurch company to build eco-friendly wastewater trenches. It is a pilot project which organisers hope will be picked up by other villages along the coast. Locals say they will then look to resorts to clean up as well. A marine biologist advising on the project has been testing water outside resorts. Full story and source:

Protecting our turtles [Fiji]
Fiji Times - 20 April 2009
VILLAGERS in the Mamanuca Group have shown that it is possible to run a successful conservation program without compromising traditional values. Last week the villagers released a turtle into its natural environment after 11 months of being cared for and fed like an infant. Known as Adi Mana, the turtle is in the ocean, making a journey which may one day bring it back to Fiji waters. The turtle was bred and cared for after a 2007 survey showed that more than 100 turtles were harvested within the year for funeral and wedding feasts and a number of church functions...more

VANUATU TUNA FISHING INTERESTS DEFEND INDUSTRY: Responds to criticism by environmental groups
Pacific Islands Report - 20 April 2009
Before New Zealand and Australia opened their labour market or Regional Seasonal Employers Scheme 450 families in Vanuatu were already benefiting from the money their sons and fathers were getting as fishermen. "And the fishing boats contribute about one hundred and forty million vatu each year into of our revenue of which some is used to subsidize the cost of education and health in Vanuatu," the Managing Director of Tuna Fishing Christopher Emelee told Daily Post. The sight of the fishing boats in Port Vila harbour lately has triggered a chorus of protests from environmentalists and what Mr. Emelee suspected to be game fishing interest groups...more

Climate refugees in Pacific flee rising sea
Washington Times - 19 April 2009
Rising sea levels blamed on climate change are taking a toll on island nations in the South Pacific, with the world's first climate refugees beginning a migration that is likely to continue for decades to come. Inhabitants of parts of New Guinea and Tuvalu have already been forced to moved from low-lying areas... more

Pacific nations step in to save tuna
Fiji Times - 16 April 2009
Until a group of small Pacific island nations imposed unheard-of restrictions on foreign fishing fleets in December, most tuna species were on the road to extinction, experts say. The measures are expected to reduce the catch of yellowfin, bigeye and albacore species by between 10 and 30 per cent over three years, enough to guarantee that the world's top tuna fishing areas, which earn an estimated $3 billion annually, will remain productive for the foreseeable future. "This is exactly what's needed to reverse the decline of Pacific tuna stocks," said Eric Gilman of International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The conservation measures, which take effect Jan. 1, 2010, were imposed after international fishing fleets, mostly from Europe, Asia and the United States, overfished the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean and sought new fishing areas...more

Feds, Researchers and Industry Tackle Pacific False Killer Whale Issues
WPRFMC - 16 April 2009

Pacific Islands Report - 15 April 2009
The New Caledonian government is planning to lay charges against the Vale Inco nickel company and the southern province following a massive acid spill. The leak which killed thousands of fish in the North Bay river and affected the World Heritage protected Prony Bay happened earlier this month during a test run of the new facility...more

Pacific Islands report - 14 April 2009
A 10-Year extension on a moratorium on sea turtles will be part of the next Cabinet's discussion, says the Fisheries Department. Senior fisheries officer Aisake Batibasaga said there was a need for the moratorium because turtles were on the endangered species list. "We have put together the proposal and we just need the approval of Cabinet on this issue," Mr Batibasaga said. "We will have a decision by Cabinet sometime this month." He added that a Sea-Turtle Recovery Action Plan would be implemented once the 10-year moratorium was in place...more

Eco-warrior sets sail to save oceans from 'plastic death'
Observer - 12 April 2009
In a few weeks, the heir to one of the world's greatest fortunes, David de Rothschild, will set sail across the Pacific - in a boat, the Plastiki, made from plastic bottles and recycled waste. The aim of this extraordinary venture is simple: to focus attention on one of the world's strangest and most unpleasant environmental phenomena: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a rubbish-covered region of ocean, several hundred miles in diameter. The patch, north-west of Hawaii, was discovered in 1999 by researchers who found that its waters contained tens of thousands of pieces of plastic per square mile, the remains of rubbish caught in the region's circulating ocean currents. This pollution is now devastating populations of seabirds and fish that live in the region. During his trip, which is being sponsored by the International Watch Company and Hewlett-Packard, de Rothschild will collect water samples and post blogs, photographs and video clips of the area, in an attempt to publicise the perils posed by plastic pollution...more

Islands Business - April 2009
The Pacific first became a part of the luxury aquarium trade in the 1970s. Thirty years later, the total value of aquarium exports from the region is between US$40 and US$60 million-accounting for about 10-15% of the global trade-and the aquarium trade is becoming an important source of income and employment for local communities in the Pacific...There are concerns that extractive wild-capture practices are causing damage to marine environments. But evidence suggests that coral reef resources are resilient and that the trade could be managed sustainably to provide Pacific islands communities with a continuing livelihood...The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has been assisting the region develop management and monitoring regimes to ensure the long-term sustainability of the trade whilst promoting best eco-friendly industry practices to ensure maximum benefits from these resources. As part of this effort, SPC and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) hosted a sub-regional workshop in Noumea, New Caledonia in early December 2008 on the marine aquarium trade...more

SOLOMONS MP WANTS PLAN TO RELOCATE LOW-LYING ISLANDS: Outer islands to be affected by sea-level rise
Pacific Islands Report - 8 April 2009
Member of East Malaita, Hon Manasseh Maelanga, in parliament has called on responsible authorities to start working on a relocation plan for those outer islands affected by the rising sea levels. Mr Maelanga raised the issue during the question and answers session in parliament yesterday. He called on the various ministries responsible, "to act now because we are running out of time." "Ministries should act and relocate people especially those living in low lying atolls...there is an urgent need for them to be relocated to main lands," Maelanga said. He added that he is currently talking with customary landowners in his constituency to "give land for relocation purposes...and have the land registered to those that eventually settle there." ...more

Cook Islands looks at deepening lagoon to accommodate Mini Games event
RNZI - 7 April 2009
The Cook Islands organising committee for the Pacific Mini Games is looking at deepening part of Rarotonga's picturesque Muri Lagoon so the outrigger canoeing events can be held there. The Games CEO, Mac Mokoroa, says the country's vaka groups have approached them about the obstructions posed by coral on the planned course. Mr Mokoroa says the Marine Department and Environmental Services have been considering options. "Now the very first one is that they can replant these corals in areas where it will not be a hindrance to the canoe races, or alternatively they can change the course, the whole line of the course, where the corals will not be in the way. Or the third option is that they can hold the racing during high tide." Mr Mokoroa says any decision on removing the coral would depend on the reaction of the Environment Council and local chiefs.

LARGE ACID LEAK AT NEW CALEDONIA NICKEL MINE: River ecosystem greatly damaged
Pacific Islands Report - 6 April 2009
Local associations and the Southern province of New Caledonia were in uproar at the weekend after it transpired last week that thousands of liters of sulfuric acid have accidentally been spilled into the environment, killing thousands of fauna and flora species. The incident was reported to have occurred on Wednesday last week at the construction site of the huge nickel mining project driven by Brazilian giant Vale, in the south of the main island, near Goro. But the major spill (of an estimated one to five thousand liters of sulfuric acid, especially in the nearby river) only became public later in the week...

Saving the Pacific's leatherback turtle
LA Times - 4 April 2009
The leatherback turtle -- at 1,200 pounds, the world's heaviest reptile -- is in such severe decline that it could become extinct in the Pacific Ocean within a few decades, according to Oceana, an environmental group seeking emergency protections for it and the other five species of sea turtle. Of particular concern is the plight of the leatherback, which grows to a length of 5 feet and migrates about 6,000 miles each year from nesting beaches in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands to the coastal waters of California and Oregon to feed on jellyfish...more

FFA monitoring, control and surveillance experts meet about illegal fishing
FFA - 3 April 2009
Experts in monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries from the 17 member countries and territories of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) will meet today and next week to discuss how they can better respond on a regional level to illegal fishing. Illegal fishing is difficult to estimate - but if just 10% of the skipjack catch of 1.2 million tons is taken by illegal fishing, a possible US$276 million dollars worth of fish is being stolen each year. This is a great loss for Pacific Island economies, government revenues and for the many islanders that rely on fisheries for jobs and food.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing) is of great concern to Pacific Island leaders which agreed in 2007, at the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Committee meeting, to develop "with the assistance of the FFA, a comprehensive regional Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) strategy". ..more

Seabed review widens [Cook Islands]
Contributed by Ana Tiraa - 3 April 2009
Seabed Bill meetings wanted for Cook Islanders in NZ and Aust. The Seabed Minerals Bill select committee has extended its review of the proposed legislation from its initial two weeks to a three-month period ending June 30. The bill relates to the exploration and mining of the Cook Islands manganese nodule resources which government claims are worth billions. The committee submitted its interim report during parliament's sitting on Wednesday which asked for the approval of the time extension so it could carry out its work. The committee has proposed that it not only hold public meetings in each of the outer islands, it also wants to hold meetings 'through the main city centres of New Zealand and Australia to keep our people informed of developments'. It says these meetings are needed because a far greater number of Cook Islanders are resident in New Zealand and Australia than at home.

Small islands urge deep CO2 cuts, fear rising seas
Reuters - 2 April 2009
Small island states have sharpened their calls for the rich to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, saying low-lying atolls risk being washed off the map by rising ocean levels. An alliance of 43 island states, backed by more than a dozen nations in Africa and Latin America, urged developed countries at U.N. climate talks in Bonn on Thursday to cut greenhouse emissions by "at least 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020." "The scientific findings about climate change are frightening," M.J. Mace, a legal advisor to the Federated States of Micronesia who presented the demands at the March 29-April 8 meeting, told Reuters...more