Friday, December 23, 2011

Economic value of the Ocean to the Pacific Islands

Henrike Seidel & Padma Narsey Lal 2010
“The Pacific Ocean is under threat from overexploitation, pollution and habitat destruction. These threats are caused by a range of unsustainable and unregulated uses; amongst those are the ocean-based economic sectors and activities presented in this report. If the current “business as usual” approach to resource use in the Pacific is to prevail in addition to predicted climate change effects, Pacific Island economies face the prospect of becoming non-viable. Economies beyond the Pacific Island region can also suffer from the resulting loss of tuna stocks and a decline in the tourism industry since key players are often foreign nationals and large multinational corporations. However, the largest cost by far will be borne by the people of the Pacific Islands whose livelihoods, cultural identity, and food security are at stake. There is a common lack of understanding about the incremental change in economic value as the health of the Pacific Ocean changes. Further deterioration of its state of health could have significant and negative impact on the economic wellbeing of Pacific Islanders. This will primarily affect those reliant on the tourism and fisheries sectors that depend directly on healthy ecosystems. The projected costs of climate change to the development of the Pacific islands economies are expected to be US$7billion over the next 20 years. These costs are mainly caused through losses in tourism income and employment, losses in fisheries yields and reduced human health, damages from reduced coastal protection and erosion.  Additionally, damages from liquid and solid waste pollution can cause costs of millions of dollars to each Pacific Island country and territory. To address key environmental threats facing the countries and the region as a whole in an effective and timely fashion, increased political will and collaboration between and within countries at all governance levels is urgently needed. The PICTs and Pacific Rim countries need to build on past and ongoing resource and environmental initiatives, including transboundary efforts such as the Micronesian Challenge, and locally managed marine areas, and develop and implement cross-sectoral, partnership based and multipronged, actions across the Pacific Ocean that would also mobilise widespread public support. Such a process needs to be guided by comprehensive and reliable information about economic values and arguments regarding the “cost of inaction”. Such an approach, as compared to purely science based advocacy, is more likely to appeal to the conscience of decision-makers and the hearts and minds of the leaders of the Pacific region that urgent action is needed now and into the future. Biggest challenge is information gaps. Targeted economic valuation of goods and services associated with key ecosystems in the Pacific is also needed to further enable evidence-based policy advice. It will be the responsibility of the Leaders of the Pacific nations, the politicians and governments and all key stakeholders including the public at large, to take this information and act for the sustainability for the Pacific Ocean, even if it may mean moving beyond traditional comfort zones.

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