Marine Spatial Planning in Samoa for resource management and resilience for climate change and disaster risk reduction

The Samoan Government is implementing a four-year project to build resilience by strengthening community engagement through Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and Ecosystem Based Adaptation.

MSP or ocean planning provides a framework and consultative process to gain a better understanding of how marine areas are used by different groups to ensure appropriate decision-making.

Speaking at the Pacific Resilience Meeting (PRM) in Suva, Ulu Bismarck Crawley Chief Executive Officer of Samoa’s Ministry for Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) reconfirmed MSP isimportant for ocean management for the Pacific island countries given 98% of the area is water.

“Our Pacific region is one where livelihoods, food security, cultural wellbeing, and economic dependencies are inter-connected with the ocean,” said Ulu Bismarck Crawley

“There is recognition that marine ecosystems are in decline, mostly due to human activities, but there is also recognition that it is possible to manage human activities to minimise these impacts.”

MSP involves an inter-sectoral and participatory public process of identifying and achieving economic, social and ecological objectives in a transparent and organised way.

At the PRM session on “Nature based solutions as adaptation strategies for the Pacific” Mr Crawley spoke about Samoa’s efforts in Marine Spatial Planning for the sustainable development and wise use of the country’s ocean resources.

“The Marine Spatial Plan Project intends to gather more information and data to inform us on the ocean and the resources it provides so we can make good decisions for its management and sustainability.  This will include identification of where the resources are, the issues and challenges to its generation, accessibility and use,” explained Mr Crawley.

“The Ocean has been discussed as a carbon sink for the emissions that are causing climate change but there is a lot of unknown with the ocean.  At present parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change  are awaiting a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the Ocean and its’ role in climate change.  As a large ocean country, this information is critical to Samoa for economic planning and development and food security given our reliance as a major source of protein as well as opportunities for achieving carbon neutral from emissions.”

“Samoa is also working with Conservation International to develop a Samoa Ocean policy and the Marine spatial planning project will provide the information that will inform this policy.”

“This includes reefs which plays a big part in protecting coastlines from spring and king tides which are becoming frequent and more damaging as well as protection from potential sea level rise due to climate change and tidal waves.”

Mr Crawley said key stakeholders of the project include the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ministry of Education the private sector and NGOs.

“We did the inception workshop last month in consultation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and now we have an implementation plan and supporting governance structure that will see the partnership between government and CSO to carry the project out,” he said. The next step will involve consulting the communities.

“The project will be for four years. A mid-term review  will carried out after two years to see where we are in terms of activities been implemented and also opportunities for necessary revisions to achieve the same outcome.”

Mr Crawley added, “The challenge faced by Ecosystem based adaptation in small islands in relation to climate change must be reviewed properly as evidence point to already damaging effects along the coastline from spring and king tides , flooding of low lying areas forcing people to move to higher grounds which is a challenge to atolls and small low lying islands.”

“For small islands states, time is a constraint as the impacts of climate change are already witnessed and experienced and therefore we have  to be selective on interventions or investments that enhance the resilience of our communities.  We must look carefully at the approaches we take such as seawalls versus mangroves to control inundation of roads and other assets along the coast”.

The project has financial support of 1.4 Million Euro for 4 years from the Global Climate Change Alliance- EU through the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Oceania Regional Office.

The presentation made by Mr Crawley took place during the “Nature Based solutions as adaptation strategies for the Pacific region”.  This was a parallel session on “Goal 1 of the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific – Strengthened integrated adaptation and risk reduction ton enhance resilience to climate change and disasters” on day one of the PRM.

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