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Pacific conservation of migratory species

Pacific conservation of migratory species benefitting Pacific communities

22 October 2017, Manila, Philippines - “Their future is our future – sustainable development for wildlife and people” is at the heart of the Twelfth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP12) in Manila, the Philippines this week.

The Convention calls upon cooperation and partnership between countries to protect migratory species where their journeys between their habitats for feeding and breeding lie within the jurisdiction of different states. Six countries in the Pacific region are Parties to the CMS Convention - Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Palau and Samoa, all of whom are attending the CMS COP12.

At this event, Samoa, in partnership with Sri Lanka, has proposed the listing of the Blue Shark on CMS Appendix II, which means that its conservation status would benefit from collaboration between countries. This proposal also has the support of Cook Islands, Fiji and Palau.

The CMS has two appendices on which species are listed for protection. Appendix I is for endangered migratory species which are totally protected and Appendix II lists migratory species that are conserved, but not fully protected, through a range of agreements.

“The theme of the CMS COP12 highlights the role of conservation for wildlife, and people. In our region conservation serves our communities - when we effectively conserve species we are also protecting the source of our livelihoods, by providing for healthy populations of species that are often at the core of our cultural and traditional beliefs,” said Mr Michael Donoghue, Threatened and Migratory Species Adviser of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

“The CMS Convention is crucial for the Pacific islands region which is home to many migratory marine species such as whales, turtles, sharks and rays, and dugongs. No single country has sole management control over these species, but collectively the countries through which these ocean voyagers migrate all have a responsibility to care for them; and when we do, they in turn will care for us, enriching our lives, our cultures and our sustainable development.”

A key example of this are reef sharks in Palau. The lifetime value of a live reef shark to the tourism industry has been estimated at USD 1.9 Million - an estimated population of around only 100 sharks supports approximately USD 18 Million worth of shark diving every year. The value of a reef shark’s carcass is about USD 108.

Globally, about 600,000 people spend over USD 300 Million annually to watch sharks, supporting 10,000 jobs worldwide.

“Statistics like these leave very little doubt as to the role of conservation and how it benefits peoples and communities, as well as threatened species,” said Mr Donoghue.

While only a few Pacific island countries are Party to the CMS, the impact the island region makes at the global event is immense. This year Samoa and partners are calling for improved conservation and management of the Blue Shark, through its listing on Appendix II.

Three years ago at the CMS COP11, Fiji was successful in its proposal to list all nine species of Mobulid Rays on both appendices of the CMS. The mobulid rays are vulnerable to overexploitation due to their low productivity and communal behaviour.

“Cooperative efforts such as these commitments, led by our Pacific island countries, lead to actions on the ground that give our migratory species a fighting chance for survival,” said Mr Donoghue.

“We know that population recovery is possible, even when species have been taken to the very brink of extinction.”

The iconic humpback whale, now the focus of multi-million dollar whale watching industries in many Pacific islands countries, was hunted last century almost to the point of extinction, with perhaps as few as 200 remaining across the entire region when the slaughter finally stopped in 1978. Its recovery in the Pacific region to around 3,000 whales is one of the world’s most encouraging conservation success stories, and for many Pacific communities, this success has led to new opportunities to support their livelihoods.

“We commend the efforts of our Pacific island region, although we are only small economies, we are large ocean states with enormous Exclusive Economic Zones. Our region covers over 10% of the planet’s ocean surface. We have made a positive impact for the protection of our marine wildlife, but we mustn’t stop here,” said Mr Donoghue.

“There are many actions we can all do to continue on this path, at all levels, both in our communities and on the world stage such as here at the CMS COP12. Ultimately, the more we conserve and promote truly sustainable development, the better for us as people as well as for the planet’s wildlife.”

The CMS COP12 is held from 23 to 28 October, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. The Pacific islands is part of the Oceania Region which consists of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Palau, Philippines and Samoa. For more information please visit:

Work to enhance and strengthen Pacific representation and engagement at the CMS COP12 is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts as well as the Second Phase of the ACPMEA project, an initiative of the African Caribbean Pacific group of countries, funded by the European Union, implemented in partnership by UN Environment and executed by SPREP.

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