By: H.E. Olai Uludong, Ambassador to the United Nations, Republic of Palau
Small-scale fisheries lie at the intersection of sustainable livelihoods, local traditions and ecosystem health. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, this highly dynamic and varied sector contributes to about half of global fish catches and employs 90% of capture fishers and fish workers. Yet these fisheries are often overlooked. Their full contribution to food security, incomes, and national economies need to be recognized to foster local-scale solutions to improving ocean health and community resilience to climate change.
Amid these challenges, there are bright spots of progress for small-scale fisheries. Many islands are on the forefront of protecting and advancing sustainability for local and artisanal fishing, while seeking to scale local solutions for bigger wins across regions.
In 2006, governments committed to the Micronesia Challenge—pledging to effectively conserve at least 30% of the near-shore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020. In addition to setting ambitious goals extending beyond what is called for internationally, the Micronesia Challenge is also a way to think and act across scales. From local to regional to global levels, supporting the protection of marine resources that enable sustainable livelihoods throughout vast oceanscapes is key.
In 2015, the island nation of Palau passed the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act, which creates full protection for 80% of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and designates the remaining 20% for traditional fishing and small-scale commercial fisheries. This extraordinary step is one of the world’s most impressive ocean conservation initiatives. The Act sets the precedent for strengthening small-scale fisheries and traditional fishing, rebuilding fish stocks, and encouraging sustainable and biodiverse marine ecosystems.
Island-led solutions are a central focus of the Global Island Partnership, led by Palau alongside Seychelles, Grenada and British Virgin Islands. Facilitating collaboration and learning across these initiatives supports island leaders in building resilient and sustainable island communities. Last month, Palau- as Chair of the Board of the Global Island Partnership, hosted a panel discussion alongside members and friends of the Partnership, including the Seychelles, Italy, Rare, and the UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme for the upcoming United Nations Ocean Conference in New York on 5 to 9 June. As a dialogue on fostering successful and timely partnerships for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, the panel highlighted the importance of collaboration across groups, communities, governments and civil society, in moving forward on ocean commitments. Rare will be spearheading a multi-stakeholder dialogue through the Global Island Partnership’s Small-Scale Fisheries Working Group—an effort that will shine a light on the importance of greater attention to local and artisanal fisheries.
As we look ahead to the Ocean Conference in June, the targets of SDG 14 are a resounding call for recognizing the vital place of small-scale and artisanal fishing for island and coastal communities. The Global Island Partnership is working to harness strong partnerships to move this and other key issues for islands and oceans forward. Too often, small-scale efforts seem ill-suited to global progress. However, in the case of small-scale fisheries, thinking ‘small’ will be essential for promoting sustainable oceans and creating models of island resilience that can be scaled up and replicated around the world.
The Republic of Palau and the Global Island Partnership is pleased to have Mission Blue as a partner and “Friend of GLISPA” as we work together toward our common goal to inspire action to protect the ocean.
Source: Large Ocean States, Huge Ocean Solutions – Mission Blue