May 22: International Day For (Island) Biodiversity

The International Year of SIDS provides an important opportunity to call attention to a number of issues of grave concern to SIDS, including of course the subject at hand today: biodiversity and we are pleased to be here to discuss especially island biodiversity. Island species are unique in their vulnerability and of the over 700 recorded animal extinctions in the last 400 years, almost half were island species.

Indeed, over the past century, island biodiversity has been subject to intense pressure from invasive alien species, habitat change and over-exploitation, and, increasingly, from climate change and pollution.

This pressure is being keenly felt by SIDS — many of whom depend on the conservation and sustainable use of island biodiversity for their sustainable development. For the region with which I am most familiar, the Pacific, preserving and restoring marine biodiversity – most importantly, healthy coral reefs, coastal and marine ecosystems – is paramount. They provide the foundation of island history and culture and are critical to our livelihoods and food security.

Without healthy productive and resilient oceans and seas, there is no sustainable development for many of us. We rely on reefs to support the fisheries we depend on for food, to provide revenues through tourism, and to shield our coastlines, roads, water supplies and other critical infrastructure from increasingly frequent and intense storms driven by climate change. Put another way, preserving marine biodiversity is essential to our sustainable development. We can’t develop if we don’t have food too eat, water to drink, or land to build on.

This critical role of oceans and seas in sustainable development is why Pacific SIDS and others have been pushing for a stand alone goal on oceans and seas in the context of the work on Sustainable Development Goals. Additionally, AOSIS is in firm support of targets to promote the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, oceans and seas, including:

  • On ocean acidification and climate change;
  • On maintaining and restoring all stock at least to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield;
  • On eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and destructive fishing practices;
  • On establishing marine Protected Areas;
  • On eliminating fishing subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing;
  • On improving equity and access to fisheries and markets by, subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fishers; and
  • On increasing support for sustainable tourism activities.

These are just some of the issues being discussed, of course, and I look forward to discussing how we can find synergies between the ideas discussed here today and other areas in our work that can promote biodiversity preservation. One thing we know for certain is that protecting ecosystems provides exponential benefits to all 3 dimensions of sustainable development – environmental, social and economic.