Meet the young climate official championing Fiji’s oceans

A blog by Chimaobi Omeye, Commonwealth Correspondent

This Commonwealth Secretariat blog is the second in a series launched during Youth4Climate and continuing in the lead up to COP26 and beyond, featuring young people from across the Commonwealth who are leading the way on local climate action. View the full blog series.

The blogs are written by fellow youth citizens from the Commonwealth Correspondents network. To be part of this series, contact us.

Kushaal Raj is the Acting Manager for Climate Change and the Ocean Specialist for the Ministry of Economy, Government of Fiji, where he develops ocean policy and provides technical expertise for international negotiations on ocean-related climate challenges.

He is also responsible for updating Fiji’s progress on oceans within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – so is currently immersed in preparations for the global COP26 climate talks which take place next month.

Here, Commonwealth Correspondent Chimaobi Omeye interviews Kushaal Raj during the busy lead up to COP26, about his journey as a Fijian climate official for one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, during the most critical time in history for climate action.

What led you to become a climate change champion?

I started my career as an academic at the University of the South Pacific with a focus on renewable energy, after studying biology and chemistry.

My academic research group discovered the critical links between climate change and the renewable energy sector in Fiji. The University then championed further exploration of this link by developing the first programme in Fiji on Renewable Energy Management.

The passion I developed for climate change began there and took me towards a change in my career pathway. I diversified my knowledge through training and began aspiring to join climate change and oceans advocacy movements.


Kushaal Raj, Acting Manager for Climate Change and the Ocean Specialist for the Ministry of Economy, Government of Fiji

Why and how is Fiji is prone to climate change and ocean disasters?

As a large ocean state and developing Island Nation, Fiji – like the rest of the Pacific – is not immune to climate change.

We are vulnerable not only due to our small economies and inability to secure and adapt to climate-ready infrastructure, but the ‘doubled’ threat we face from multiple climate scenarios: sea level rise, coral bleaching, coastal inundation, intense and frequent cyclones, droughts, and others.

Fiji alone does not have the financial resources nor the technical capacity to address climate challenges, yet it trail-blazes efforts towards ensuring and increasing climate resilience through innovative policy interventions, coupling adaptation and mitigation co-benefits through nature-based solutions and integrated disaster risk reduction systems.

In what ways has Fiji been successful in rising above the challenges?

Fiji has always led through implementation; whether it was on mitigation through our Low Emissions Development Strategy, adaptation through our National Adaptation Plan or more recently on oceans through the National Ocean Policy.

Robust policy requires concise and effective implementation – which is what we are currently doing – through dialogue with mandated ministries and development partners, as well as the public through consultation on progress of actions within the ocean space.

This helps create greater awareness on the threats of natural disasters and what communities can do to assist in mitigating damage.

Climate policies

Apart from those stated, other notable policies include:

  • Fiji’s Five year and 20-year National Development Plan
  • The Third National Communication
  • The Planned Relocation Guidelines
  • The National Climate Change Policy
  • The Displacement Guidelines
  • Fiji’s Updated Nationally Determined Contributions and

Fiji has also complemented the Paris Agreement through its updated Nationally Determined Contribution, through which Fiji reaffirms its:

  • 2030 target under Article 4.11 of the Paris Agreement
  • Commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050
  • Commitment to enact its Climate Change Bill by 2021; and
  • To operationalise its National Adaptation Plan.

The Climate Change Bill, once endorsed, will be the legislative force which will ensure the implementation of numerous climate projects assist in Fiji ambitions to become carbon neutral.

In July 2019, Fiji successfully compiled its first Voluntary National Review (VNR) and presented it at the High-Level Political Forum in New York.

Fiji has learnt from its first progress report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is now undertaking preparatory works for the compilation of its second VNR for presentation in 2022.

Fiji is also working jointly with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs in strengthening advocacy, awareness and institutional readiness for the implementation of the SDGs across all sectors.

Ocean action

How does your work influence the attainment of SDG 14: Life Below Water?

Our work consists of collating information and reporting on ocean actions and activities within Fiji to Government, development partners and the international community.

As the oceans unit, our work automatically creates synergies with SDG14: Life Below Water, however our work is holistic and spreads across multiple Ministries, such as Fisheries, Foreign Affairs and Environment, due to the diverse nature of the ocean.

Fiji has already taken steps to expedite work within the area of SDG 14 specifically through the SDG unit of the Climate Change and International Cooperation Division of the Ministry of Economy, which will report on all SDGs and initiate a streamlined and directed approach towards collecting data on SDG 14, among others.

How do you work with communities?

Earlier this year we held a creek clean-up in Nabukalou. This was done in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and numerous civil-society organisations and was the first of many clean-up campaigns and events organised to raise awareness of pollution management, while we continue to improve other means of waste collection to protect the marine space.

The turnout was quite significant for the creek clean-up, particularly from young people – more than 100 people attended from registered community groups, faith-based organisations and the public.

Businesses have also taken initiatives to decrease their plastic pollution, which has been further assisted by the ban on single-use plastic bags in Fiji, which came into force on 1 January 2020.

Challenges

How has Covid-19 and cyclone Ana impacted your work?

I believe the paradigm shift to virtual meetings due to COVID-19 has been the biggest change. Although avoiding the long transits to attend meetings has been a respite, the lack of first-person contact has been a hurdle for many to counter, especially during negotiations and high-level meetings.

We were fortunate that the cyclone did not cause as much damage to the capital city of Suva (our place of business) as it did in the northern areas of Fiji and as a result, much of our work was unaffected. However, there have been numerous challenges posed on our economy and climate aspirations, which is constant with frequent cyclones in Fiji.

An area we are currently lacking in is advocacy, but although our work is updated and regularly reported on the international and global stage, we have only recently started campaigning more widely on climate change issues domestically.

Our hope is to align our work with the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

The team is in the process of operationalizing the National Ocean Policy, as although the Policy is robust, its implementation will require multi-stakeholder input.

Similarly, as Fiji was devastated by the recent tropical cyclones Yasa and Ana, a pilot project called the Savusavu Blue Town Model is being developed to assist in rehabilitation in the northern division and as a foundation to improve economic resilience through investment in ecological resilience.

Advice for young people

Climate ambition without climate action is ineffective. Your passion about climate change should not end at advocacy, but if you have the capacity, should also diversify into assisting the community in curbing climate and oceans issues.

This could be done through clean up and community-led programmes, pilot projects on innovative climate solutions and advocacy of these issues within communities – this will also help the drive towards resilience.

Do you believe young people are given opportunities in Fiji and globally?

Youth participation has always been key for climate action in Fiji and the world. Greta Thunberg is an excellent example of how youths can make a difference.

For Fiji, Timoci Naulusala is a similar figure in the context of climate change and international youth leadership, who at the age of 12 gave the opening speech of COP23 in Bonn, Germany. He captivated world leaders on the impacts of climate change and remarked that the ‘blaming and waiting game’ was over and it’s now time for action.

Together for change

national climate youth summit with a focus on climate change was recently organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in partnership with non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and the Climate Change Division of the Ministry of Economy, to inform youths on the importance of their roles in society as first responders and advocates for climate action.

They were also consulted on Fiji’s upcoming Climate Change Bill. It is an avenue to renew commitment towards youth-led community activities that address climate change and enable youth to better communicate and network on this issue with government ministries and development partners.

This youth leadership and collaboration is critical in addressing climate change. We must all work together for real change.

This Commonwealth Secretariat blog is the second in a series launched during Youth4Climate and continuing in the lead up to COP26 and beyond, featuring young people from across the Commonwealth who are leading the way on local climate action. View the full blog series.

The blogs are written by fellow youth citizens from the Commonwealth Correspondents network. To be part of this series, contact us

Share this blog series on social media using hashtags #CommonwealthForClimate, #CommonwealthYouth and #BlueCharter.

Case study: Katy Soapi – A Leader in Ocean Science and Conservation in Fiji and the Solomon Islands

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. Share your own case study with us.

Download as PDF |  View all case studies

“We need to start changing what our young people think of when they think of a scientist. My hope is that I see more Pacific Islanders, and women, taking up leadership roles, being successful in their career and thriving.”

– Katy Soapi

Background

Katy Soapi is the Coordinator for the Pacific Community Centre for Ocean Science at the Pacific Community in Fiji, a position she took up in January 2021. Before that, Soapi was the Manager of the Pacific Natural Products Research Centre at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji. Soapi grew up on the island of Rendova, part of the Solomon Islands, in the Pacific.

She completed her bachelor’s degree at the USP, a master’s at the University of Sydney in Australia and a PhD at the UK’s University of East Anglia. Soapi then returned to the Pacific, taking up a position at the USP as a lecturer and eventually becoming the Manager of the Pacific Natural Products Research Centre, housed at the USP.

Katy Soapi conducting seawater carbon chemistry analysis in the lab. Photo credit: The Ocean Foundation

In the Solomon Islands, Soapi is a founding member and board member of the Tetepare Descendants’ Association, which is dedicated to conserving the largest uninhabited island in the Southern Hemisphere. As part of that work, she supports a seagrass monitoring programme that is led and conducted by women. For the past ten years, the programme has been gathering annual data on seagrass coverage, diversity and health, all of which are ecosystem health indicators for the island’s lagoons.

Soapi is also part of the advisory team to the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC) supporting Pacific Island Countries on the marine genetic resources component of the UN Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) negotiations (an international instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the BBNJ, once finalised, will address the management of marine biological diversity of ocean areas beyond countries’ ocean borders).

Soapi attributes her success to good mentors and seeking out and pursuing opportunities. Having grown up in a matrilineal culture, Soapi has always felt her voice is important in her community. Even away from her coastal village, she says that a sense of empowerment has stayed with her.

Women conducting seagrass monitoring for the Tetepare Descendants Association. Photo credit: Katy Soapi

What is your background and the path that led you to where you are today?

I grew up on a small island called Rendova. My village was right by the sea, so I grew up by the sea. My primary education was on that island in the village. Later, I went to boarding school on another island for high school.

After completing high school, I went to the USP to do a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. I decided upon further studies at the University of Sydney in Australia on chemistry. I wanted to investigate the natural products from medicinal plants, such as plants that were used traditionally in my village, that I grew up using as a child. I wanted to look at the links between traditional medicine and bioactive natural products isolated from the medicinal plants.

However, when I got to the University of Sydney, it was hard to get the plants that I wanted to work on from the Solomons, so I changed my course and studied synthetic chemistry instead. My study involved working towards the synthesis of a natural product called Phomopsin which has anticancer properties. I continued my research in synthetic chemistry studies, enrolling in a PhD program at the University of East Anglia, when my family moved to the UK. I was successful in receiving a scholarship to study nitrogen-containing biologically active compounds.

At the end of my PhD, I returned to Fiji with my husband who had found a job there. I went to visit some of my old professors at USP. One of them, the late Professor Aalbersberg, who I had worked with previously as an undergraduate encouraged me to apply for a position as a research fellow in a project on marine natural products in Fiji and the Solomon Islands. I applied and got the position.

After about a year, I got a job as a lecturer in chemistry, and eventually as Manager of the Pacific Natural Products Research Centre. I was at the USP for almost 13 years teaching and later, leading the research efforts of the Centre investigating antibacterial, antifungal and anti-cancer properties of marine natural products from marine invertebrates, algae, soft corals and bacteria in sediments.

In January 2021, I joined The Pacific Community (SPC) as Coordinator for PCCOS. It’s a new role and I am really excited about this new challenge and the opportunity to work for and with our members states within the ocean space.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

What has been your impact on gender equity in your field and region?

At the community level, I am engaged with one of our conservation projects, the Tetepare Descendants’ Association, which has been on-going for almost 14 years. It is a project where we’ve conserved one of our islands and tried to sustainably use and manage our island’s resources through monitoring efforts to inform decisions. We have set aside the seagrass monitoring especially for the women.

Tetepare Descendants Association (TDA) women conducting seagrass monitoring

For seagrass monitoring it was easier for the women because they are already involved in artisanal fishing and often spend time on the reef or mudflats to collect shellfish for food. The women were quite keen on being part of the monitoring activities and it was quite an appropriate activity for them, being in shallower areas and sometimes involving their children. I have done it many times dragging along all my kids. I am glad that this activity was set aside for women because being in their own space, they were free to lead the monitoring activities and to participate fully.

How did you support the marine genetic resources component of the BBNJ negotiations?

One of the key elements in the BBNJ instrument is marine genetic resources. When the negotiators from New York came to Fiji, we were able to present our work to them and talk about what is meant by marine genetic resources, the importance of drug discovery and pharmaceuticals. They also visited our labs to see our collection and our testing facilities. We tried to show them the whole process from extraction to testing and purification of bioactive compounds including how and to whom we send our samples. We wanted to ensure that they have a good understanding of the research and development processes involved in biodiscovery and pharmaceutical research to help them with their BBNJ negotiations.

Overcoming barriers

What do women in your region need to become ocean leaders?

In the Pacific, where there is such a strong family network, often it is the female who must drop out to look after a parent or the wife who must drop out to look after the children. We need to raise more awareness that women do not have to do that. I think that more should be done to create an enabling environment for women to continue working and to not have to choose between a career and a family.

I think we are getting more marine science graduates in the Pacific now, but getting a job in marine science is very hard. Most of them end up as teachers or in a non-marine science job. This affects both men and women, but I think it is worse for women. If recruitment for a science job is between a female and a male candidate, often it is the man who gets selected. There is also a lack of funding, for women and men, to participate in ocean science projects and ocean science employment.

One of the barriers is not having enough women scientists to look up to. Sometimes it is hard to imagine where and what you can be when you do not have that image of a woman you want to aspire to. Female role models help overcome those barriers, so you do not have that feeling of being an imposter because there is no one around you who is like you, who is doing the same kind of work that you are doing.

What allowed you to succeed despite the barriers?

I think it was a combination of many things. I was lucky to be given opportunities, but I also had to seek out these opportunities, like scholarships or employment opportunities. I was quite determined as well and from a young age decided that if given an opportunity to study on a scholarship, I would do my best to do justice to the opportunity.

I also had good mentors and a partner who encouraged and believed in me. The late Professor Aalberberg was one of those mentors who gave me a chance. When I was a student at USP, I assisted him on a research project for six months and it was an amazing experience that really opened my eyes to research work which I was so grateful for. When I returned to Fiji after finishing my PhD, I again worked with him and had another opportunity to learn from him.

At the community level, despite the barriers we face as women, I find strength in culture. I grew up in a matrilineal system and heard stories of fierce tribal women who made decisions about the land and settled disputes. I also grew up observing the strong voices of my mother, my aunties and grandmother. Sadly, in our modern society, women’s voices are not as elevated anymore. But I ride on the recognition my culture gives my voice and I find it empowering. I am often consulted on matters relating to our tribal land or our conservation projects back at home and I am grateful for that. Solomon Islands is so diverse culturally, and I am painfully aware that the voices of women are often overlooked or ignored even now in my own community as society, culture and lifestyle change.

My mother has always been my biggest supporter, always encouraging me. She was a school teacher. She said to me, “Go as far as you can.” Even after I finished university, she said, “I’ll leave it to you to decide when you want to stop studying.” She encouraged me to go after what I wanted and supported me as much as possible financially. Having somebody who believed in me and encouraged me has been quite influential in my career.

Advice for the next generation

Do not wait for opportunities, look for them or create them. Seek out opportunities to do an internship or temporary work or scholarships or even volunteer work. Be proactive. I did the same when I left University and this approach has benefited me over the years. I got my PhD scholarship by directly contacting the university and they responded with potential opportunities for scholarship.

The other advice is to not give up easily. Always remember that if it were easy, somebody would have done it already. I was the first in my family to go to university and it was not by luck that I ended up there. It was through hard work and perseverance that I progressed through my studies and my career. STEM is hard for everybody and there were many, many times I wanted to give up, but I kept going. It was all worth it in the end.

Maintain your network

We do have a good number of women scientists but there’s not enough networking. We need to work together to provide a platform for women to learn from each other. For small communities, like those found in the Pacific, it is important for women to maintain their networks. You need these networks as you progress in your career and they can become your support system during tough times or when you need career advice or just to connect and share experiences in a safe space.

You can influence the world, wherever you are along your path. A lot of young people think that they need to be a leader to influence others. It is important to start where you are. You can learn so much and be a positive influence even through volunteer work. My community engagements are all voluntary work. I enjoyed the opportunity to experience conservation work while at the same time participating in community science. The work has kept me grounded and connected to my community even from abroad.

Hopes for the future

I hope to see more Pacific Islanders, if not Pacific women, in positions of leadership. We need role models for the younger generation. We need to learn, hear and see what our Pacific Island women are doing and their contributions to science and development so our young people can see themselves in these leaders. My hope is that we have more Pacific women in leadership whom our young people can look up to.

Download as PDF |  View all case studies

Opportunity to join eXXpedition Virtual Voyage

Commonwealth Blue Charter is working with eXXpedition, a UK-based company that runs all-female sailing voyages investigating ocean plastic pollution, to offer a bursary place for the next stage of eXXpedition’s Virtual Voyage programme.

For the past five years these missions have been at sea, but given the pandemic the experience is now being offered virtually. This means eXXpedition can continue to support a community of changemakers in taking action against plastic pollution.

From live scientific analysis to collaborative problem solving, the immersive leadership experience is designed to equip and support participants in enacting change in their own country. By bringing the best parts of the journeys at sea to life online, the chosen crew have a unique opportunity to network with talented women from across sectors, deep dive into the cause of and solutions to plastic pollution, and receive one-on-one mentorship from mission leaders to find their unique role in helping solve one of the world’s most pressing issues.

Each Virtual Voyage has a 12-person crew of women from all over the world who will be connecting through an online platform. The full programme involves six interactive sessions and some independent research. The condensed programme will be delivered over the course of a weekend.

Applicants – who must live in or be connected to Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu or Australia – are invited to complete an application form here.

Climate Vulnerability Assessments in Fiji and South Australia: Two Partnership Models for Measuring Climate Risk

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us

Download as PDF |  View all case studies

Summary

For many governments, an initial step towards preparing for more severe climate impacts is completing a climate vulnerability assessment (CVA), which can help identify the climate-related risks facing a specific community, as well as potential strategies for mitigating those risks. While there is guidance available for the technical exercise of completing a CVA, one of the most important decisions for a government to make at the outset entails who to involve in the process.

This case study outlines two different partnership models, which may provide useful ideas and examples for Action Group members. In one example, the Republic of Fiji partnered with the World Bank and the EU, allowing them to access outside technical and communications expertise, as well as financial resources. In another, the State of South Australia partnered with regional governments to create a series of local CVAs, which were co-funded by all three (national, state, regional) levels of government.

The issue

Severe weather events are already a reality for many communities around the world. For example, in the island nation of Fiji, tropical cyclone Winston in 2016 caused economic damages equivalent to 20 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (F$2 billion) (Republic of Fiji, 2017). With these events expected to become more frequent in the future as a result of climate change, communities are faced with the question of how to prepare themselves, their infrastructure and their economies for future climate impacts. For many governments, a first step towards answering this question is completing a CVA. In general, a CVA typically aims to identify:

1. The climate-related risks faced by a specific geographic area and its citizens;
2. The effects of those risks on key vulnerable sectors of the economy; and
3. Potential strategies for mitigating those risks.

While guidance exists for the technical exercise of completing a CVA, one of the most important decisions for a government to make at the outset entails who to involve in the exercise. Below are two partnership models, which may provide useful ideas and examples for Action Group members.

The response

Fiji

As a small, low-lying, island nation in the South Pacific, Fiji is especially vulnerable to severe weather events. Tropical cyclones and floods are the most common, with almost 70 per cent of Fijians having experienced a cyclone and about 25 per cent having experienced severe flooding (Republic of Fiji, 2017).With these events expected to become more frequent as a result of climate change, protecting citizens from extreme weather is a primary goal for the national government. At the same time, Fiji has also set ambitious goals for future economic growth, aiming to double real gross domestic product per capita by 2036, while also providing universal access to basic human services like electricity, clean water and education.

With the dual objectives of increasing climate resilience and economic prosperity, Fiji decided to partner with the World Bank, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the EU to complete a CVA. The partnership with the World Bank made it possible for Fijian officials from the Ministry of Economy and other parts of the national government to work with over 40 technical experts at the World Bank to create an approach to vulnerability assessment that incorporated the nation’s development goals. The partnership with the EU also made it possible for Fiji to receive financial support for the exercise through the Africa Caribbean Pacific-EU Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Programme (GFDRR, 2018).

Fiji’s CVA was launched in November 2017 alongside a storytelling project called Our Home, Our People, “designed to help decision-makers and members of the public understand what climate change means for Fiji” (GFDRR, 2018).Through the partnership with the World Bank, the assessment ended up incorporating several innovative components, which other governments could adopt:

  • An analytical model that considers the impacts of extreme weather on economic growth and poverty;
  • An analysis of Fiji’s road network (using data from the Fiji Road Authority) that identifies transport assets that are the most vulnerable to extreme weather; and
  • A resilience investment plan that includes a comprehensive list of potential actions and their estimated costs.

“The climate vulnerability assessment will inform Fiji’s development planning and investment decisions for years to come, and provides a specific blueprint that quantifies the resources necessary to climate-proof Fiji, giving us a full account of the threat that climate change poses to our national development,” said Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Climate Change in Fiji.

South Australia

In 2008, having recently experienced a series of record-breaking heat waves, officials in the State of South Australia’s Climate Change Unit also decided to complete a CVA. From the outset, they chose to partner directly with local communities, where the impacts are felt and where many of the resilience measures would ultimately be taken. To accomplish this, they created 12 “regional committees” comprising key local government, industry and community leaders. The committees were given shared responsibility over key elements of the planning process, including coordinating integrated vulnerability assessments, drafting adaptation plans and socializing the results with the broader community. “We wanted to work side by side with local communities to understand their perspective, and to embed it into the planning process,” said Michelle English, Manager of South Australia’s Climate Change Unit.

In agreements underpinning the processes, the committees also agreed to share costs with the state – an arrangement that helped both lower state government costs and increase the sense of ownership on the part of committee members. “Co-investment has been a powerful tool for us,” English added. “Rather than ending up with a long wish list of potential projects, local stakeholders are engaged in prioritising the most feasible actions.”

All 12 regional committees have completed CVAs, and have gone on to take the next step of developing regional climate adaptation plans based on these. “All regions are looking to progress and implement their priority actions from their adaptation plans, and to reduce regional vulnerability.”

“We now have groups of influential, local decisionmakers throughout the state with a vested interest in seeing this process succeed, and a growing culture of sharing that will enable it to,” said Stephanie Ziersch, Climate Change and Programme Adviser, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Government of South Australia.

Key lessons learnt

There are resources available to support the technical exercise of completing a CVA. But before beginning the exercise, government should consider who they want to involve in the process, as well as what their specific objectives are. The examples of Fiji and South Australia show that different partnership models can lead to successful outcomes, and that choosing the right model depends on the capabilities and objectives of the government in question. When deciding on a partnership model, governments should consider:

  • Objectives: What does the government want to achieve with the CVA (i.e. policy guidance, communications, local partnerships, enhance access to climate finance, etc.)?
  • Next steps: How will the completed CVA be used? (Key stakeholders to be included from the beginning)
  • Resources: Does the government have the resources, both human and financial, needed to complete the CVA, or does it need external support?

Sources and further reading

GFDRR (2018) ‘Assessing Fiji’s climate vulnerability: A blueprint for building resilience’. Results in Resilience Series.

Government of South Australia (nd) ‘A Region-Based Approach to Adaptation’. https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/topics/climate-change/programs-andinitiatives/adapting-to-climate-change/a-region-basedapproach-to-adaptation

The Climate Group (2015) ‘How South Australia Is Engaging Local Communities on Adaptation’. Policy Innovation Briefing. https://www.theclimategroup.org/news/policy-innovation-briefing-how-south-australiaengaging-local-communities-adaptation

Republic of Fiji (2017) ‘Climate Vulnerability Assessment: Making Fiji Climate Resilient’. Prepared with the support of the World Bank and GFDRR.

Download as PDF |  View all case studies

Sustainable aquaculture strategy to boost growth and food security

Commonwealth countries have outlined a joint plan to boost economic growth and food security through the sustainable farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants.

Aquaculture generates more than half of the seafood people eat across the world, and sustains some 26 million jobs. This translates to about 80 million tonnes of fish produced globally per year (up from 3 million in 1970), valued at around US$ 240 billion.

Nine countries are now joining forces to explore ways of expanding the sector within the Commonwealth. They are part of the Blue Charter action group on sustainable aquaculture, whose aim is to develop local communities, create more jobs, produce high quality food, while ensuring a healthy ocean.

To date, members include: Cyprus (as the lead or ‘champion’ country), The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Fiji, Malaysia, Mauritius, Seychelles and Trinidad and Tobago.

Following the action group’s inaugural meeting in Cyprus on 25-27 February, the Director of Fisheries and Marine Resourses, Ms Marina Argyrou said: “Aquaculture, being the fastest growing food producing industry on a global scale,  has an important role in contributing to food security, creating employment opportunities, as well as improving the welfare of local communities.

“It also has the potential to provide environmental services in the framework of fisheries re-stocking programmes, as well as restoration projects for mangroves and corals.”

Ms Argyrou referred to aquaculture as a “main pillar of blue growth”, adding that: “It is our obligation to develop it in a sustainable way so as it will be financially viable, socially acceptable and environmentally compatible.”

The Action group will assess aquaculture practices in member states, outline shared priorities for action, and establish a framework for cooperation with the European Union and other international organisations.

It is one of 10 such groups under the Commonwealth Blue Charter – an agreement by all Commonwealth leaders to cooperate actively to protect ocean health and promote good ocean governance.

These action groups are led by ‘champion’ countries have stepped forward to rally members around key ocean issues, such as marine pollution, climate change, ocean acidification and the sustainable blue economy.

Ms Argyou concluded: “Cyprus is honoured to champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on sustainable aquaculture. We hope this platform will spur action among like-minded countries and partners, with a focus on knowledge-sharing, cooperation, and taking a science-based approach to sustainably develop our activities.”