Skip to content

Highlights of IMPAC5 for 7 February 2023

As the fifth edition of the International Marine Protected Areas Congress draws to a close, the atmosphere in Vancouver is of great camaraderie, happiness, and forward-looking. On the eve of the closing of the Congress, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Oceania Regional Office, through kind funding of the BIOPAMA Project of the European Union, hosted a special dinner banquet of thanksgiving. The keynote speakers at the banquet were a long-time Pacific champion of the oceans, the High Chief in Palau, and the former President Chief Maderngebuked Tommy Remengesau Jr, Hon. Jeremie Katidjo Monnier – Minister for Sustainable Development, Environment, Natural Parks, Climate Change, Water & Food Transition of New Caledonia and Hon. Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu – Minister for Environment of French Polynesia.

IUCN Oceania Team at IMPAC5 (L-R) Segi, Alanna, Etika, Rahul, Vai, Nicole, Lisa, Yuvone, Ulamila

The recipient of the Pacific Champion Award in 2013, the United Nations Champion of the Earth title, the Inspiring Conservation Award, and the IGFA Conservation Award, all in 2014, with his powerful and highly motivated speech, Chief Remengesau stressed the importance of protecting our blue nature. He said, “we shouldn’t be satisfied with achieving 30%; we should actually be more worried about the whole nine yard – that means 100%.” He added that we could take actions related to fully protected areas while marine spatial planning in areas near the coastline, thus making room for everything.

Hon. Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu spoke passionately about the invention of solutions within our own countries. Citing an example of ‘sea water airconditioning in French Polynesia that reduces 2% burden of electricity in one of the biggest hospitals in Papete, the Minister said, “we can develop our technology for our problems; we do not need to wait for big countries to help us.” the Minister applauded the young generation who are now learning new technology and area of science such as aquaculture and fisheries and said, “they are very clever, and we need to support them.”

Hon. Jeremie Katidjo Monnier acknowledged the partnership of IUCN and thanked them for having involved his delegation at the Congress. The government of New Caledonia has recently become a member of IUCN and, therefore, it was also an excellent opportunity for the Minister to meet many other partners working on the MPA’s in the Pacific. In his keynote address, Hon. Monnier stressed the importance of using existing tools and a pool of knowledge and skills from around the region rather than reinventing the wheel.

Dr. Jon Day, an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow of the James Cook University from Australia, was also present at the dinner. Dr. Day has been involved in all previous IMPAC congresses since the inaugural one in Australia. Hearing him speak about the IMPAC5 and the young professionals BIOPAMA and IMPAC1 funded was profoundly welcoming. He not only shared his happiness to see the six young professionals from the Pacific but even gifted each of them a special IMPAC1 merchandise he had with him.

Minna Epps, the Head of the Ocean Divison of the IUCN, welcomed all the guests and thanked the BIOPAMA team for organizing an excellent evening of celebrating the work on MPA in the region and particularly recognizing the young professionals that were going to speak later in the evening.

The young professionals shared their experiences and appreciation for having been involved in IMPAC 5 and acknowledged the support and guidance that was provided to them. Speaking on behalf of the six young professionals from the Pacific, Alanna Smith of Cook Islands said that they had developed their own community from within the Pacific and would like to keep adding more youths to their community when they return. She shared her interest in raising awareness about the implications of deep-sea mining within communities in the Cook Islands, as much of this information is inaccessible from the government.

Lisa Bun from Papua New Guinea described her work documenting traditional conservation practices in different locally managed marine areas and collecting data on plastic pollution in MPAs. Lisa is employed by the Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority. Lisa’s aspiration is that if she gets into a position of being a decision-maker, she wants to undertake that through an informed process and make it wise.

Nicole Yamase of Micronesia recently graduated from Hawaii with a Ph.D. in marine biology. She was proud to be the first female to get a Ph.D. degree in Federated States of Micronesia. She shared her experiences as the first Pacific Islander to take an underwater diving expedition to the world’s deepest ocean trench at 36,000 feet – the Challenger Deep. In her inspirational message to all the youths, she said, “the higher they are, the louder the voice can be.’

Segi Tavailau from Samoa, who now resides in Utah, USA as a Ph.D. student, shared his interest in data collection and analysis using machines. He shared his recalling of the fish supply when he used to accompany his dad to sea and now realizes that they are fast disappearing. He is keen to help the Pacific in data collection and analysis post his student life.

Yvonne Wong from Papua New Guinea felt very fortunate to have been selected by IUCN ORO to attend the IMPAC5. It was her first international conference of this magnitude. Appreciating her selection, she said, “because of your faith in us, I know that we will not let you down, and I know that we will work together and will be strong…”

Ulamilla Matairakula, who works for the Pacific Blue Foundation, an NGO in Fiji, shared her experiences working with indigenous communities on coral restoration and mangrove planting linking her training and awareness with traditional knowledge. She said she was keen to use her experiences from Fiji and share them with the other young professionals as they endeavor to develop some regional projects.

Photos from the Dinner Reception held by IUCN ORO

Photos:Rahul Chand
%d bloggers like this: