It makes sense (and dollars) to protect the environment

An email from Rachel Bristol, our NGO representative from Seychelles at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Brazil, last week was all great news. The announcement by the island republics of Kiribati, Palau and Grenada of the creation of new marine protected areas has taken the conservation world by storm. More so that these were made at the launch of  the “Global Island Partnership” an event sponsored by an alliance of island governments, UN agencies and NGOs.
Kiribati’s new Phoenix  Islands Protected Area becomes the largest marine protected area in the Pacific region and the third largest in the world. Surpassed in size only by Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the Northeastern Hawaiian Islands, the Phoenix protected area represents 8 percent of all marine protected areas on the planet. It is the first marine protected area in the world with deep-sea habitat, including underwater mountains.

Kiribati will be rewarded for its investment through a novel endowment system, showcasing the economic returns of choosing conservation efforts over extractive industries. The Global Conservation Fund of Conservation International (CI) will finance the implementation phase and start up the endowment.

In fact, the long-term investment by Kiribati and CI, one in natural capital the other in Dollars, makes a lot of sense. Coral reefs and mangroves play an important role in shoreline protection, food security, tourism and science and technology. The cost of protecting such  vital systems amounts to a fraction of their estimated global value.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and others have released a new study proving just that. The report calculates the average management cost of  a marine protected area to be US$775 per square kilometer. This is less  than 0.2 percent of the estimated global value of a square kilometer of the same coral reef or mangrove. The estimates are based partly on the many services that reefs and mangroves provide, including shoreline protection, fisheries, tourism, and recreation.

Against this background, illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing is severely depleting the world's oceans of fish stocks. This was again highlighted at the CBD meeting. Participants have called for new measures to strengthen a global treaty to manage fishing on the high seas. Unsustainable fishing practices are threatening the world's fisheries and thus the food security of millions of people.

The “Global Island Partnership” is a great initiative that all island states must join. This unique alliance between island governments, the UN, and NGOs such as Conservation International, WWF and BirdLife International can only succeed in making the world a better place for everyone.

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