DESCRIBING THE ENTIRE MARINE ENVIRONMENT OF SAMOA

Apia, Samoa (20 October 2020) – Samoa is a Pacific leader in ocean management and planning. Samoa’s Ocean Strategy (SOS) 2020-2030 was developed following the country’s commitments to the protection and management of its ocean space at the UN Ocean Conference in 2017 in New York. During the Pacific Island Leader Forum in 2017, our government leader has made ‘Ocean’ a priority development and conservation issue. This integrated policy framework allows for cross-sectoral coordination and collaboration to effectively manage, conserve, and ensure longstanding economic, subsistence, and cultural benefits from our ocean into the future. The SOS was approved by the Cabinet in early this year and launched officially last Friday, 16 October 2020. The strategy will provide a roadmap for ocean governance in our country for the next 10 years. The Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) component is amongst the identified strategic actions to advance the objectives of the SOS. A 4-year MSP project was launched in 2019 with financial supports provided by the EU’s Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) Initiative. A Marine Spatial Plan will identify areas, in the sea, in which to promote specific developments, areas where certain uses should be controlled, areas where conflicting uses should be separated, and identify special areas that need protection. The Marine Spatial Plan will also help uphold and support traditional marine resource management systems. To do this, we needed to have a holistic description of the environment of our ocean. Whilst some parts of our sea are well known, and some parts are considered special or unique, we all realise that every part of our ocean matters and, biologically, it’s all interconnected. It’s interconnected horizontally, across different parts of the sea, and vertically, where what happens at the ocean surface is linked to what happens in the deeper water habitats underneath the surface and vice-versa. But data on our ocean is scarce and limited. We don’t have perfect information about exactly where every marine plant and animal occurs, where it is more or less abundant and we also don’t have perfect maps of the marine habitats that they use. But, it is possible to use comprehensive open-source environmental data (e.g. sea temperature, salinity, nutrient concentration, pH, calcite concentration, sunlight penetration, etc) to deduce spatial distribution patterns of species.

A stakeholder and expert workshop on marine bioregions for Samoa was hosted for 2 days; 20 – 21 October 2020 at the Lava Hotel in Apia. Ocean experts from communities, government Ministries, and non-government agencies used a world-standard
description of the entire marine environment of Samoa to describe marine bioregions for the nation. Initially, a technical analysis using over 30 environmental datasets was used to define six deepwater and one reef-associated draft marine bioregions for Samoa. National experts then ground-truthed and reviewed these draft bioregions based upon their knowledge of and experience with Samoa’s ocean, from the coast Participants of the workshop with the IUCN technical team in Suva, Fiji out to the deepest sea.

By the end of the workshop, the experts will confirm deepwater and reef-associated draft marine bioregions for Samoa which can now be used in national planning. This work means that no part of Samoa’s marine environment will be ignored when decisions are made as to how best to ensure the ecologically sustainable use of the ocean.

The bioregion workshop was supported by the Government of Samoa and the MSP project (funded by the EU with technical support from IUCN Oceania Region Office). If you would like more information, contact Mr Mulipola Atonio P. Mulipola, MSP Project Manager: atonio.mulipola@mnre.gov.ws; Atonio.Mulipola@ext.iucn.org or 67200.

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