by Juanita Nonwo – EM TV Online
In a recent media statement, The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) stated that it is reinforcing government warnings after a serious concern was raised over observations of dead fish and other marine life along the coral coasts of Fiji and Vanuatu, including a number of coral bleaching around the coast of Fiji.
Hundreds of dead fish and invertebrates were discovered floating near Pango Village on Efate, at Emten Lagoon in Port Villa and Aneityum Island.
The exact cause of the death of these marine lives is yet to be found; but it is believed a number of factors could be involved ranging from water pollution from toxic chemicals to low concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the water.
Satellite data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) , has indicated an increase in water temperatures around Fiji and Vanuatu, being hotter than average since late January 2016.
This data suggests a deep concern as warm waters hold less dissolved oxygen than cooler waters. According to the Director of SPC’s Fisheries and Marine Aquaculture Division, Moses Amos, once the level of dissolved oxygen drops below a critical level, fish and invertebrates can effectively suffocate.
“This is especially an issue in shallow water habitats which can rapidly heat up and lose dissolved oxygen, and at night-time, algae respire, removing oxygen from the surrounding water,” stated Mr Amos.
The locals living along the coast who are experiencing this have been urged not to feed on these fish kills, as Fisheries scientists from SPC have been sent to Fiji to investigate the cause while working with the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests to develop a National Fisheries Policy.
A similar event was experienced in the Marovo Lagoon, in the Western Province of Solomon Islands in June 2011 where low levels of dissolved oxygen triggered a die-off of a harmful algae bloom that may have been the cause.
Mr Amos further stated that events like these stress the importance of inshore fisheries resources in human affairs, but also the fragility of the reef habitats that support these resources.
The strong El Nino conditions, which are currently still in effect has been labelled as the factor responsible in influencing these events. With 2015 predictions from NOAA, stating there will be widespread coral bleaching in the Pacific from 2015 – 2016 summers.
An analysis from SPC concerning future impacts of climate change on fisheries is not looking so bright either. Predictions of reef environments becoming more fragile over the next century has been placed under two contributing factors:
- Human-induced climate change and
- Environmental degradation from human population pressure in coastal regions.
To help coastal communities maintain their livelihood in the case where coastal resources and fisheries face increased fragility, SPC has compiled a strategy called ‘A new song for coastal fisheries – pathways to change: The Noumea strategy’.
The New Song strategy was developed in March 2015 to address some of the challenges faced today by the increasing population of coastal communities in the Pacific.
According to the strategy, many Pacific Island coastal communities depend on coastal fisheries resources as the primary or secondary source of income for up to 50 percent of households; while about 50 – 90 percent of the animal-sourced protein consumed is gradually declining.
With this New Song initiative, it aims to:
- Be the innovative approach to dealing with declines in coastal fisheries resources and related ecosystems.
- Calling for an enhance focus on coastal fisheries management and related development activities in the Pacific, and
- To provide direction and encourage coordination, cooperation and an effective use of regional and other supportive services in the development of coastal fisheries management.