Tokelau meets in Apia about ocean acidification

Tokelau participants, officials, and support staff at the Friday lunchtime meeting about ocean acidification, in Taumeasina Resort, Apia.
Dr Tommy Moore of SPREP opens the meeting.
Apia, 27 March 2017

About 30 people from Tokelau met in Apia this weekend, to participate in a workshop about ocean acidification. It is part of an international project whereby Tokelau has been selected as a pilot global monitoring site for the health of our oceans, and how this affects coral reef ecosystems.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) based in Apia, Samoa was organising the event with support from the New Zealand government, the Pacific Community (SPC), and the University of the South Pacific (USP).

The opening took place at Taumeasina Resort in Apia, over lunch on Friday afternoon. Participants from the Tokelau government included te Ulu o Tokelau, Faipule Siopili Perez and the Minister for Telecommunications, Pulenuku Mose Pelasio, plus a variety of Tokelau public service and community groups.
Te Ulu o Tokelau, Faipule Siopili Perez addresses the workshop participants.
Opening speeches were delivered by the main organiser Dr Tommy Moore of SPREP; by the Ulu o Tokelau; by the Deputy High-Commissioner of New Zealand for Samoa Mr Mike Walsh; and by Deputy-Director of SPREP, Mr Roger Cornforth. Both have had a long-standing association with Tokelau through their work with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Wellington.

The Ulu o Tokelau welcomed the timely and vital partnership of the Government of NZ, Government of Monaco, SPREP, SPC, and USP with Tokelau. He reiterated Tokelau’s commitment towards the international community's collective efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 of Agenda 2030: aiming at conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

“It goes without saying how invaluable the ocean and ocean life is to the Tokelauans and to all other Pacific islanders. ‘Our Ocean is us, our cultural identity’. Our lives are intertwined with the ocean life in all and every aspect– economy, culture, language,” he told the participants.
The ocean acidification project is an initiative, sponsored by the Prince of Monaco in Europe, that arose from world-wide climate change concerns. This is well documented as a result of high carbon dioxide emission – mostly by western nations and China. Not only are these emissions leading to climate change and sea level rise, accompanied by more extreme weather events. As carbon dioxide dissolves in sea water, it also makes that water more acidic. As a result of that, marine organisms such as sea shells and corals find it more difficult to retain their strength and die.

In a conference in Auckland in August 2015, countries’ cooperation was sought in monitoring changes in sea water acidity over time. Tokelau was eager to put its hand up as one of the pilot monitoring sitea. The three atolls of which the tiny country consist are very susceptible to sea level change, because they are so low-lying (maximum height only about 5 metres). Their remote location in the centre of the Pacific Ocean, 500 km north of the nearest port Apia in Samoa, also makes them a pristine site for monitoring global change, far away from any significant carbon emissions.
Deputy-Director of SPREP, Mr Roger Cornforth (left) and Deputy High-Commissioner of New Zealand for Samoa Mr Mike Walsh.
The workshop, organised by SPREP solely for Tokelau was the first of its kind. The aim was to inform a cross-section of the Tokelau population (totalling 1,500 people) about the effects of sea water acidification; and to see how to best set up a pilot site for monitoring coral health over there.

The opening at Taumeasina on Friday was followed by a full day’s work at the SPREP campus in Vailima, Apia on Saturday. Participants got a chance to introduce themselves and to discuss what the priorities were for Tokelau in terms of Climate Change; and to come to grips with the biology and chemistry of coral reef ecosystems.
The workshop is continuing from Monday through to Wednesday in Hotel Insel Fehmarn in Apia. Participants will participate in Community Mapping Exercises, discuss Coral Reef Ecosystems and how their threats and stressors can be identified and reduced; and develop guidelines for community-based coral reef management.

All this will help prepare Tokelau for becoming a prime site for baseline monitoring of ocean acidification – for the benefit of all of the Pacific, and indeed the world.
The Tokelau Climate Change team: Mrs Paula Faiva and Mr Penehuro Lafele.

For more information contact:
  • Mrs Paula Faiva, Programme Manager: Climate Change, Tokelau Apia Liaison Office, ph. +685 7758820 email
  • Dr Tommy Moore, Pacific Islands Global Ocean Observing System Officer, SPREP, ph. +685 721 2375 email
Story and pictures by J A (“iapi”) Jasperse 24-27 March 2017. email

Published verbatim in Samoa Observer 28 March, page 10

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