Regional cooperation for
marine environmental and
Kilifoti S. Eteuati
The Pacific region, the focus for this chapter, is an ocean region. The 22 countries and territories of Melanesia (West), Polynesia (South and East), and Micronesia (North) which make up this region are spread out over an area in excess of 30 million square kilometres, of which 98 per cent is covered by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. It is also a region of extreme diversity in land forms, populations, cultures, politics and economics. Of the total land area amounting to a little over half a million square kilometres, Papua New Guinea accounts for 84 per cent while four countries (Nauru, Tuvalu, Tokelau and Pitcairn) are each smaller than 30 square kilometres.
The high rugged mountainous islands of Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Samoa are contrasted by 15 of the countries and territories which are made up wholly or largely of tiny, highly vulnerable low-lying atolls and coral islands. Except for Nauru with onshore mineral deposits, all the atoll countries depend almost exclusively on the sea for their existence.
The total population of the region, estimated at 7 million for 1998, ranges from Papua New Guinea with 4.5 million people, to Pitcairn with under 60 people. On the population growth scale, the population of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands has been growing annually at 5.6 per cent in recent years, while Niue on the other extreme has been losing people through migration at the rate of 2.4 per cent annually.
Politically, 14 countries are constitutionally independent while