Aug 23, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

Aliens invade the bay

ant invasive iguana (GII), also known as American iguana, in Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second biggest island. Last week villagers living near Viani Village, on the south coast of Natewa Bay, caught a male GII, a reptile that could grow to two metres long.

Nearby resident Jay Browning said while the male GII was killed, it was unfortunate that a female was also spotted but it escaped into the forest. Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) had declared American iguanas as pests and they are working closely with villagers to find others believed to be in the forest. According to BAF the pests were brought illegally into the country some 10-plus years ago and released on Qamea Island.

They have since spread to neighbouring Laucala, Taveuni and Matagi islands and now to their nearest main island, Vanua Levu. American iguanas breed rapidly and a female can lay 50 to 80 eggs. As herbivores they pose immediate threats to food security, eating plants such as dalo leaves and cassava tops, bele, tomatoes, cabbage, beans and yam vines. The last sighting on Vanua Levu was in 2014, when Tawake villagers on the west coast of Natewa Bay, found and killed one on their shores. The scenic Natewa Bay is the biggest bay in the South Pacific.

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IN the South China Sea, the Chinese Government has now built up a string of artificial islands that are robust enough to hold aircraft bases and give their regional neighbours a serious case of the jitters. Millions of tonnes of rock and sand have been dredged up from the sea floor and pumped into reefs to suddenly create 800 hectares of pristine Chinese territory.

Thousands of miles away in the tiny South Pacific nation of Tuvalu, the New Zealand Government has also been quietly engaging its own form of island reconstruction. Much to the delight of the Tuvaluan people New Zealand recently spent around $NZ10 million to fill in the “borrow pits” that were created when the United States effectively turned the capital atoll of Funafuti into a giant aircraft carrier during the later stages of WWII.

These open borrow pits which have blighted the atoll of Funafuti for decades were created when the United States started building a new runway as a launch pad for the bloody battle to reclaim Tarawa Atoll from the Japanese in November 1943. This runway now accounts for approximately 14 per cent of the total land area of 14300 hectares on Fongafale, the main islet of Funafuti. At only 26 square kilometres Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world and 6000 of its 10,000 inhabitants live on Funafuti.

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THE “Nuku’alofa Declaration for Sustainable Weather and Climate Services for a Resilient Pacific” was endorsed by the first ever Pacific Ministers of Meteorology in Tonga in July. This is the first historic step towards strengthening Meteorological Services across the Pacific island region at such a high level and now that the winds of support have propelled the Meteorological Services this far, it is hoped the momentum will continue.

It has been estimated that since 1950, extreme events including events that are non weather related such as tsunami, have affected approximately 9.2 million people in the Pacific, with close to 10,000 reported deaths and damage to the value of US$ 3.2 billion. Over the last decade some Pacific islands have experienced natural disaster losses that have approached and in some cases, exceeded their Gross Domestic Product over a single year. For example, losses in Niue due to Cyclone Heta in Niue in 2004 amounted to over five times the 2003 GDP.

The vast majority of the 284 recorded disasters that occurred in the Pacific island region between 1950 and 2013 were caused by weather related events, especially severe storms. Both individually and collectively, these disasters have had enormous social, economic and environmental consequences. For those that experience them however, these extreme events are more than just statistics. This is at the core of work by the Pacific Meteorological Desk Partnership based at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) - to help promote the role of the National Meteorological Services and their responsibility in saving lives during severe weather events.

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What do syringes and televisions have in common? Both become ‘hazardous waste’ when their useful life is over. That is, potentially dangerous or harmful to health or the environment if not properly managed. Hazardous wastes can pollute water and soil, accumulate in food crops and fish, and workers required to handle them can also be exposed to infectious and toxic substances if they are not correctly trained and equipped. Improved management of hazardous waste: healthcare waste, asbestos, and Ewastes have been identified by the Pacific islands as priority issues. SPREP has responded accordingly through a partnership with the European Union and associated funding from the 10th European Union deveopment Fund for the PacWaste project.

The Pacific Hazardous Waste project or ‘PacWaste’ is a 7.85m project that will run over four years until 2018. This project will help improve hazardous waste management in the Pacific region through: Assessment of the regional (and national) status of hazardous waste to prioritise improved management options; Implementation of best available hazardous waste management practices in Pacific island countries; Enhancement of policies and regulatory frameworks to increase local hazardous waste management capacity; and Improvement in regional collaboration and information exchange on hazardous waste management practices between and within Pacific Island Countries and Territories.

The first year of PacWaste has focused on regional hazardous waste assessments, with regional baseline surveys completed on the status of E-waste management across nine participating countries; healthcare waste surveys completed across 42 hospitals in 15 participating countries including Timor Leste; and assessment of the status of integrated waste management at a regional atoll waste management demonstration sitelocated in Majuro, Republic of Marshall Islands.

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History was made in Pyeongchang, Korea in October with the first Meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya Protocol, a landmark agreement covering access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from their use. This meeting took place in association with the meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 12). SPREP - The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme - was there to support our Pacific Island members who have ratified or acceded to the Nagoya Protocol or who intend to ratify or accede. To date Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa and Vanuatu have ratified with the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu acceding. The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources is one of the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Protocol recognises that provider countries have sovereign rights to their biodiversity. This is of great importance for the Pacific region as it is a major step toward ensuring equity and fairness in the sharing of the profits that could be made by the developed world from the biological resources of Pacific countries. 

It’s at the heart of the SPREP Vision - a Pacific environment sustaining our livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with our cultures. The Protocol ensures that mechanisms are in place for the prior and informed consent of local communities and Pacific island governments before genetic resources are utilised, whether for research or commercial gain. The Protocol aims to ensure resource owners receive a fair return from their biological resources. Pacific biodiversity is rich and unique – our peoples for generations have lived with and used our biodiversity for a range of purposes including food production and traditional medicine. This traditional knowledge is still very much in use today.

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