Thank you very, very much to Excellencies and distinguished delegates.

It is a pleasure to speak here this afternoon at this High Level Exchange on Pacific Leadership through Innovative Approaches to the Oceans Economy – Pacific 2050.

Australia has the third largest marine jurisdiction in the world, at around 14 million square kilometres. We recognise that marine and coastal ecosystems are important for human well-being, providing food and nutrition while facilitating trade and transportation, and underpinning sustainable growth.

Coastal fisheries provide the primary or secondary source of income for up to 50 per cent of Pacific households. These ecosystems, particularly mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses, are also important for protecting coastlines and reducing the impacts of climate events. 

However, marine and coastal ecosystems are facing unprecedented pressures from a diverse range of global threats including climate change, marine pollution, unsustainable fishing, coastal development and increased shipping activities.

Australia has a range of policies and legislation in place to address key threats to marine life, to protect iconic species and support sustainable use of ocean resources.

We recognise that strong international and regional partnerships are critical if countries are to meet their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals.  Through these partnerships, Australia shares its technical expertise and works with countries to develop innovative policy approaches.

We also recognise that the sustainable development, management and conservation of the Pacific Ocean and its resources require good decision making and integrated planning.

To this end, we invested $5.9 million over four years (2014-17) into the establishment of the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, maritime boundary delimitation and marine spatial planning in the Pacific.

Pacific Island Leaders mandated the establishment of a Regional Ocean Commissioner to provide the necessary high-level representation and commitment required to ensure dedicated advocacy and attention to ocean priorities.

We are proud to support you, Dame Meg, in your role as Pacific Ocean Commissioner. And can I just say that your facilitation and the Pacific Ocean Alliance is an innovative approach to information sharing and coordination on ocean issues in the Pacific.

Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing – IUU fishing – costs us all. Estimates suggest IUU fishing is responsible for revenue losses worldwide of over $60 million a year in the Pacific.

Yesterday, I was pleased to announce, as one our voluntary commitments, AU$4.4 million over four years to build capacity in the Pacific to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing.

This will include specific training and support for officials from Pacific Island Countries for cooperative enforcement activities as envisaged under the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement.

We are pleased to work with the PIF Secretariat and the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, along with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme on the International Partnership for Blue Carbon.

This partnership aims to build awareness, share knowledge and accelerate practical action to protect and restore mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses.

These ecosystems are globally significant carbon sinks and play an important role in delivering countries' Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.

They also provide a range of ecosystem services, including supporting biodiversity, fisheries and sustainable livelihoods. 

To this end, Australia has made 20 commitments at this Ocean Conference, plus supporting two others including the spread of commitment with whales – and having been to Tonga myself, I think that is absolutely marvellous, I have seen the whales for myself!  

I am confident that, with the involvement of Pacific partners, the Blue Carbon Partnership can play an active and valuable role in contributing to the ocean economy in the Pacific. 

On behalf of Australia, we look forward to working with our COP agencies and working with them on their innovative approaches to the ocean economy and consider other ways that we can work more collaboratively together to address the many shared challenges that we face in our ocean, and most especially in the Pacific.

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