Pacific youth and the blue economy

The Pacific Ocean, which covers 30% of the Earth’s surface, is the source of life for Pacific Island countries, which depend on it for food, income and employment. Yet this critical resource is under threat from the impacts of climate change, marine pollution and over-exploitation.

Blue economy
© EU GCCA+ – SUPA 2021 students during beach monitoring activities in Palau

The EU-funded Global Climate Change Alliance Plus Scaling up Pacific Adaptation (GCCA+ SUPA) project is working closely with ten Pacific Island countries to address these threats by scaling up specific climate change adaptation measures that put people at the centre of development. While the challenges are daunting, the project adopted a focussed approach to implement specific measures, one step at a time.

In the Cook Islands, major declines in marine resources have been experienced in recent decades. Outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, which can rapidly destroy coral reef ecosystems, have been detected in the southern Cook Islands. 
During a visit to Mauke in 2021 to engage with youth and adults on the application of traditional knowledge to marine resource management, local youth were trained in safe free diving techniques to remove an infestation of crown-of-thorns starfish.

More than 119 crown-of-thorns starfish were removed and outreach efforts are underway to make this activity part of a regular monitoring and eradication programme. The project is also expanding the infrastructure and technical capacity of the Aitutaki Marine Research Station to support proactive measures such as clam aquaculture. 

The volume of plastic debris entering the world’s oceans and impacting marine life, water quality and industries such as tourism is one of the most serious environmental challenges of this century. The scale of the issue is intimidating.
Palau in the northwest Pacific is famous for its pristine marine environment, which attracts divers from all over the world and provides food and livelihood for Palauans. With the support of the GCCA+ SUPA project, and other initiatives, students, teachers and residents are embarking on a long-term initiative to address plastic pollution.

Plastic litter is regularly sampled from the beaches using established protocols, sorted into micro, meso and microplastic groups, counted, and the results shared with the Big Microplastic Survey, a worldwide monitoring programme pioneered by the University of Portsmouth in the UK.
Understanding the nature of the problem is the first step to effective coordinated solutions. In Palau the monitoring activity is aligned with the school curriculum, which provides for sustainability and learning. Additionally, beach clean-ups are conducted after each monitoring visit.

Small specific on-the-ground actions such as these, repeated over time and in many different locations can foster worldwide environmental stewardship and contribute to a blue economy.