The campaign coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in partnership with Pacific islands and partners aims to promote the conservation of whales through a range of initiatives and awareness raising activities.
Over two million great whales were killed by industrial whaling fleets in the Twentieth Century, most of them in the Southern Hemisphere, on their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic Ocean.
While whales are recovering from the brink of extinction in the Pacific islands they now face a whole new suite of threats such as entanglement, pollution, deep sea mining, and climate change.
“If we wish to see the populations of whales continue to recover, we must all take action to protect the ocean in which they live – their future is in our hands. And by securing the future for whales by protecting their environment, we also secure a better future for our children,” said Fiame Mata'afa, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa.
“Whales are indicators of ocean health and as Pacific Islanders and guardians of whales we are equally dependent on a healthy ocean. I therefore urge all of you to get behind SPREP's campaign over the next two years.”
The Pacific island region is home to over half the species of whales and dolphins on earth. Over 20 years ago, SPREP members were at the forefront in declaring national whale sanctuaries which now cover over 12 million square kilometres of the Pacific region. Whale populations which were severely threatened at that time are now recovering and have become the focus of economic activities that benefit coastal communities of SPREP members.
“Through the Protect Pacific Whales Campaign we aim to work together with you all, across our region to highlight the importance of whales to our Pacific islands, to celebrate these magnificent creatures and to strengthen whale conservation efforts," said Kosi Latu, Director General of SPREP.
“While we have the spotlight on whales, we will also ensure that light shines on all marine species as well as overall ocean conservation. What happens in the oceans will inevitably impact whales and Pacific Islanders.”
The work plan for the two year Protect Pacific Whales Campaign includes, the Whales in a Changing Ocean Conference in Tonga in August, and the Tjibaou Regional Artists Exhibition on Whales and Ocean Conservation in Noumea in August, amongst a range of other activities to help celebrate and raise the awareness of Pacific whales.
A key part of the campaign is the commitment from Pacific island countries that have endorsed and embraced efforts planned to Protect Pacific Whales.
“Niue stands proud in declaring our support and willingness to collaborate with all our SPREP Member countries to do what we can to Protect our Pacific whales, including investigating ways in which we can resource and build capacity to implement SPREP's Whale and Dolphin Action Plan, the Convention on Migratory Species MoU on Pacific Islands Cetaceans and the Oceania Humpback Whale Recovery Plan,” said Dr Josie Tamate the Director General of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Niue, the host of the 27th SPREP Meeting in September this year.
“Our future generations of humans and whales rely on us implementing these measures.”
The Protect Pacific Whales Campaign will run over a period of two years. - #PacificWhales.