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New Commitments From Pacific Island Leaders Significantly Bolster Future Of Pacific Oceanscape

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A year after Pacific Island Leaders made an unprecedented commitment to establish the largest government-endorsed framework for a marine management initiative on the planet, Conservation International applauds the global vision shown once again by leaders here, who pledged bold new ocean conservation commitments a new marine park and sanctuary and named the first Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner at the close of the 42nd annual meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Aukland, New Zealand.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna dedicated the Cook Islands' newly declared marine park as their country's commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape and emphasized the need for Pacific peoples to reclaim their "mana" for the ocean.

"We have inherited our great ocean, Moana Nui o Kiva, and we must feel the "mana" - the honour of being its stewards," said the Rt Hon Henry Puna. At more than one million square kilometers the marine park, which covers half the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the entire southern island group, is the largest in the world today.

The Ulu-o-Tokelau Faipule Foua Toloa followed this announcement with Tokelau's designation of their waters as a sanctuary for marine mammals, turtles and sharks.

"Tokelau lies at the heart of the Pacific Ocean and the Oceanscape. We Tokelauans - in common with Polynesians, Micronesians and Melanesians - and in common with species such as the humpback whale or the hawksbill turtle or the great white shark - are Pacific Voyagers and the ocean is, quite simply, our home," said Ulu Toloa.

"Never has our home been more under threat. Overuse of marine resources and now climate change threatens our very existence," Ulu Toloa said. "Taking care of our islands is commonsense to all, and applying this care throughout our domain is now the imperative for the ocean's future and our future."

The Forty-Second (2011) Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' Meeting brought together heads of state from 14 independent and self-governing states in the region. Member nations include Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshal Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The Pacific Oceanscape, which was conceptually approved by leaders in 2010 and formally launched this year, is a collaborative agreement managing 38.5 million square kilometres (nearly 24 million square miles) surrounding their collective islands, or comparatively larger than the land size of Canada, the United States and Mexico combined. In total, the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of those nations cover approximately 10 per cent of the planet's surface.

Also among the announcements made was that Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade is to be the first Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner. His role is to be the united voice for the Pacific Ocean and to help the region prepare for the United Nation's Rio + 20 and other international meetings.

"We have learned much in the voyage to design and establish our Phoenix Islands Protected Area and we are proud to share this and to commit this site as a foundation site for the Pacific Oceanscape," said Kiribati President Anote Tong. "We hope soon to expand our effort to join with the United States' Phoenix Islands to foster a whole-of-archipelago approach for island and ocean conservation. We call this an Ocean Arc initiative and this forms a key basis for effective collaboration for protected area management at scale."

"It gives me hope for the future of our oceans' health to see the continued commitment from the Pacific Island Leaders to the Pacific Oceanscape initiative," said Gregory Stone, Chief Ocean Scientist at Conservation International, one of the Pacific Oceanscape's founding partners. "It will help secure the well being of all people in this region in terms of food security, climate adaptation and economic security."

Background: The Pacific Oceanscape is a collaborative agreement between 15 Pacific Island nations, covering an area four times the size of continental Europe (38.5 million square kilometres), and providing a framework for the integrated management of the Pacific Ocean. The agreement covers ocean health and security; governance; sustainable resource management; increased research and knowledge investment; and facilitating the partnerships and cooperation needed to support the conservation of these vast and essential ecosystems.

For more on the goals and principles of the Pacific Oceanscape please visit: www.conservation.org/FMG/Articles/Pages/marinepacificcreatinganoceanscape.aspx

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