Magazine article UN Chronicle

The Sustainable Exploitation of the Ocean's Minerals and Resources

Magazine article UN Chronicle

The Sustainable Exploitation of the Ocean's Minerals and Resources

Article excerpt

In contributing to the theme of the International Year of Water Cooperation, this article provides a perspective from a Pacific Small Island Developing State. In the context of the large body of water that surrounds Fiji and other Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS), a vital and long-standing concern has been the sustainable exploitation of the ocean's living resources and, more recently, the nonliving or mineral resources.

Fiji is an archipelago of over 300 islands scattered across 1.3 million square kilometres of the South Pacific Ocean. In comparison to that large expanse of water, Fiji's land area is a mere 18,333 square kilometres. The Fiji archipelago is a part of the Oceanic group of islands. As one of the 14 island countries located within the Pacific Ocean, Fiji's relatively small land size and large ocean real estate or exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is not unique. Taken together, the total land mass of the 14 Pacific island States is a mere 3 per cent compared to their combined EEZs, totalling 97 per cent of the ocean. For Fiji and the Pacific Island countries, the ocean provides the basis of our livelihoods, food security and economies. Sustainable development truly depends on a healthy and sustainably managed Pacific Ocean.

As a resource and the basis of our livelihoods, the ocean represents both opportunities and challenges. As an island nation surrounded by the sea, we are, on the one hand, at the mercy of the ocean but, on the other hand, the custodians of its resources. These resources sustain us today, and without them future generations will suffer, which is why we are vigilant about destructive fishing practices, oppose illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and call for the strengthening of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs).

A major part of the environmental and climatic challenges we face is influenced by the ocean that surrounds us. Changing winds, ocean currents, hurricanes and storms are all a result of the interplay between the ocean and the atmosphere.

This article highlights a few priority areas and challenges faced by Fiji in ensuring the sustainable exploitation of the ocean's resources. In addressing these issues, reference is made to the Pacific SIDS as a whole since the challenges identified are not unique to Fiji but common to all Pacific SIDS.


The sustainable development of the Pacific SIDS depends on their receiving a fair share of the revenues and other means of active economic participation from their fisheries and other marine resources. Currently, the Pacific SIDS do not enjoy equitable economic and social benefits derived from the use of living marine resources despite our overwhelming dependence on them.

The sustainable development challenges of SIDS have already been well recognized in the existing multilateral framework for both oceans and sustainable development, yet progress towards the implementation of effective strategies to address them remains piecemeal, insufficiently supported and inadequate. The disconnect between the international instruments governing oceans on the one hand, and sustainable development on the other hand, has created barriers to the full realization of development aspirations of SIDS and, in many instances, is a primary barrier to the achievement of national economic development goals.

Firm and measurable commitment is required to more fully address the legitimate development aspirations of SIDS as contained in the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement. The Pacific SIDS see the imperative for a concrete pathway for States, with specific timelines, targets and milestones to facilitate the sustainable management of oceanic resources and increase the share of benefits from their utilization. This should include enhanced direct economic participation and capacity-building. The cooperation and assistance of the international community is also necessary to enable SIDS to realize their development aspirations. …

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