Coming Together To Protect Our Oceans: PIPA's "Sister Site" Agreement

We are now only one day from Fiji. All the diving tanks of compressed air are empty, the wetsuits, which had remained continuously wet during our whirlwind dives, are now dry; the cuts, sores and bruises on everyone's legs and arms, inevitable on a trip like this, are healing; keys are tapping on computer and boxes of gear are beginning to refill. As I sit here in NAI'A's salon typing this entry, I am swung up and down--like a the carnival rides I remember as a child (my stomach pausing a little behind the rest of me on each end of the swing), holding the table with one hand to steady myself against the large gentle swells of the South Pacific pushing along our starboard side in the rhythm of the sea.

Tukabu Teroroko and Greg Stone (Photo: Brian Skerry)

The transit back from PIPA has been much calmer than the outbound trip, but still there are waves and swell making meals an event where bowls are carefully passed out from the galley rather than sit down meals. But everyone has their sea legs now and no one is "green" and sick, moaning in their bunks, which was the condition of several members on the outbound.

NAI'A near Orona Island (Photo: Greg Stone)

Now all are hearty, seasoned sailor-diver-scientists. Now, each day is filled with us all analyzing data, writing reports and having lively discussions on a variety of marine conservation topics. Today, we talked about how, when and if aquaculture operations could replace wild caught fish to both elevate the collapse of wild fisheries, but also to help feed the world. A very important discussion for the world to have as our population grows, the need for food grows, but wild fisheries are finite resources.

(Photo: Jim Stringer)

We also hear some great news today! Something that Tukabu, the New England Aquarium, Conservation International and other PIPA partners had been working on for over a year. At the UN meeting in New York, the Government of Kiribati signed a "sister-site" agreement between PIPA and the Northwest Hawaiian Island Marine Protected Area; together, these parks represent 25% of all marine protected area in the world. Congratulations to Kiribati and the U.S. for concluding this agreement, which will provide an important framework for collaboration, allowing PIPA and the NW Hawaiian Islands to share common problems and seek common solutions to the challenge of managing vast open tracks of ocean wilderness.

Location of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area in the Central Pacific

It is an exciting time to be involved in marine conservation, which is some 100 years behind land. On land, about 12% of the area is protected, while in the sea it is less than 1% globally, we have a lot of catching up to do and PIPA is a large part of that.

We now need to look at the whole central Pacific Ocean in one context and decide what other management actions or what new protected areas need to be created. Kiribati has announced their intention to work, along with many partners (including Conservation International and the New England Aquarium) on this framework, which is being called the Central Pacific Oceanscape (CPO). The CPO will bring the tropics and sub-tropics of this region into one framework so that discussion related to oceans and islands concerning climate change, research, protection, fisheries, economic security for people, cultural security, food security--so that the whole way societies related and depend on the oceans can find a forum for thorough discussion, conflict resolution and progress. That is one of the key next steps in marine conservation for this part of the world upon which PIPA is a main and stable anchor.

-Greg Stone, PIPA Expedition Leader

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