18 October 2016
Blue-spotted Stingray, Solomon Islands: XL Catlin Seaview Survey
Blue-spotted Stingray, Solomon Islands: XL Catlin Seaview Survey

Marine scientists have proposed a prosperity path for Melanesia, in a report that values the region’s ocean assets at more than half a trillion US dollars.

The University of Queensland scientists hope their proposals will help Melanesia’s leaders build on previous commitments to chart a course to a sustainable ocean-based ‘blue economy’.

Melanesia comprises Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

UQ Global Change Institute Healthy Oceans Program Manager Dr Tyrone Ridgway said the work highlighted the pressures the region faced.

“The ocean is Melanesia’s lifeblood, sustaining a diverse range of natural assets such as fish stocks, coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass,” Dr Ridgway said.

“It is increasingly evident that Melanesia faces a significant deterioration of its precious ocean assets from local, regional and global pressures.

“Local pressures include overfishing and the challenge of dealing with potential resource development projects.

“Global pressures from climate change threaten food security, coastal protection and long-term economic opportunity. 

“Coral bleaching, fish kills and Tropical Cyclone Winston that affected Fiji this year are a clear reminder of the difficulties the region faces amid a rapidly changing climate. 

“Melanesia has one of the highest population growth rates in the world and, at current projections, 60 per cent more fish will be needed to feed communities by 2030,” Dr Ridgway said.

GCI Director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said Melanesians relied heavily on the ocean.  

“The ocean has delivered the majority of food, livelihoods and economic activity for Melanesia for a very long time,” he said. 

“Given some of the troubling trends in the ecosystems that generate these benefits, however, the question is: how long will these benefits last?

“Marine assets in the Melanesian region generate much more value than we are aware of and could provide even more if they are well managed.

“Maintaining healthy ocean assets is crucial to the future of the Melanesian region.”

The proposals are published in Reviving Melanesia’s Ocean Economy: The Case for Action, produced by the WWF in association with The Boston Consulting Group. 

Media: GCI Communications Officer, Rachael Hazell, r.hazell@uq.edu.au, 0415 814 529.

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