Suva, Fiji – Today Chargé d’Affaires Tony Greubel commemorated World Oceans Day with guests from the Fiji government, local civil society organizations, high school and university students, and the media in an embassy event to raise awareness of the U.S.-Fijian cooperation to conserve seagrass, celebrate the ocean, and tackle the climate crisis. This year’s UN World Oceans Day theme is “Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean,” and people around the world will celebrate it on June 8.
Chargé d’Affaires Greubel said, “The ocean is our lifeblood. Oceans connect, sustain, and support us all. The people of Fiji, a country of some 300 islands, knows this more than anyone. Although the ocean’s health is at a tipping point, incredible efforts by organizations like Conservation International (CI) and Fulbrighter Carrie Wentzel that we are showcasing today can help protect our oceans.”
During the event, Conservation International representatives and U.S. Fulbright Student Carrie Wentzel gave presentations that highlighted such cooperation. Ms. Wentzel is in Fiji through the U.S.-government funded Fulbright Student Program, which offers funding to graduating college seniors, graduate students, and young professionals to pursue graduate study, conduct research, or teach English abroad. She is collaborating with Conservation International and the University of the South Pacific to study and conserve seagrass in the Lau Province of Fiji. As part of her research, she’s participating in two boat trips to the Lau Islands where she is the first researcher ever to study and identify seagrass there.
In Fiji, Conservation International collaborates with communities to improve natural resource management and livelihoods, from the mountains to the coasts to the sea, an approach they call “ridge to reef to ocean.” Through research and scientific collaboration, CI is gathering data to understand the biodiversity and natural resources of the Lau Islands. CI aims to foster the local stewardship of the area and its resources by supporting effective co-management between communities and the government.
A U.S. Embassy Regional Environment Office (REO) small grant in 2017 funded a pilot project by Conservation International that led to the “Lau Seascape” and the Lau Seascape Strategy. This comprehensive, long-term (2018-2030) strategy, focused on Fiji’s outer islands of Lau, uses a holistic ecosystem management approach and community support to design and implement ridge-to-reef conservation measures.
At the most recent Our Ocean Conference in Palau, co-hosted by the United States, the United States made more than 100 commitments to protect the world’s oceans, worth nearly $2.64 billion. In total, governments and organizations around the world made more than 400 new commitments worth more than $16 billion. Since 2014, Our Ocean conferences have mobilized more than 1,800 commitments worth nearly $108 billion.