In this exclusive interview, His Excellency Mr. Fatumanava-o-Upolu III Dr. Pa'olelei Luteru, Chair of AOSIS and Permanent Representative of Samoa to the UN, highlights the importance of recent discussions on protecting the ocean's health.
Q - Ambassador, in order to provide our reader who are not familiar with this subject some background, can you briefly tell us why is the Conservation and Sustainable use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), some 200NM away from the national shores, important?
A - We have to remember that the Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), or high seas, cover about half of our planet and 2/3 of the oceans. The role they play in providing food, oxygen, and in regulating our climate, including through carbon capture and excess heat absorption, is paramount for our planet. Additionally, due to the ecological connectivity of the ocean, activities in ABNJ have direct and indirect impacts on territorial waters, especially when conducted in areas adjacent or within close proximity of EEZs, which is the case for a number of SIDS. As countries that are dependent on healthy marine ecosystems for sustainable development, adequate protection of the high-seas is therefore of paramount importance for SIDS.
A - SIDS have traditionally been custodians of the ocean, utilizing traditional, local and indigenous knowledge to sustainably manage marine resources, within our EEZ and beyond. However, SIDS have not been able to keep up with the pace of scientific and technological advancements that have now unlocked new frontiers for advancing research and commercialization of these resources. Recognizing that the resources in the high-seas are the common heritage of humankind, this agreement is critical to deliver the capacity and technology transfer that is required for all countries, including SIDS, to be able to equitably access and benefit from marine genetic resources in the high seas. This will also generate co-benefits in advancing SDG14 and the SAMOA Pathway as the capacity generated can be broadly utilized for activities within EEZs as well.
A - Area Based Management tools are instrumental for protecting vulnerable areas, and enhancing marine resilience to counter the impacts of climate change and human induced activities. It is important to recognize that as large ocean states, SIDS do have knowledge and experience in this area that can contribute to the creation of area based management tools, which can be utilized with free prior informed consent or approval. At the same time, it must be ensured that creation of these marine protected areas do not create a disproportionate burden on SIDS, which is explicitly recognized in the treaty text.
Through the capacity building and technology transfer facilitated under this instrument, there is also potential for advancing digital tools that will assist SIDS in managing large and remote marine areas by shortening physical distances and facilitating monitoring remotely. As SIDS, safeguarding our rights and responsibilities remains our biggest priority as custodians of the Ocean, and we hope the treaty will deliver the capacity and technology that we require to equitably do so.