RMI appeal for climate justice

Forum Fisheries Committee Chair Glen Joseph joined with FFA Director General Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen, left, and RMI Ambassador to the UN Doreen deBrum in Geneva to deliver the FFA’s submission on climate change to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands on March 22.

Marshall Islands Ambassador Doreen deBrum traveled to The Hague in The Netherlands last Friday to officially file the RMI’s written statement on climate change at the International Court of Justice. Ambassador deBrum also filed the Parties to the Nauru Office’s written statement at the request of the office based in Majuro.

The Marshall Islands is backing a Vanuatu initiative to get the International Court of Justice to address the obligations of countries in causing climate change conditions.

The Forum Fisheries Agency also joined with Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Vanuatu, PNA and the Pacific Islands Forum in submitting a climate change statement to the International Court of Justice last Friday.

FFA Director Dr. Manu Tupou-Roosen and FFA Officials chair MIMRA Director Glen Joseph were at The Hague to officially deliver the climate statement to the International Court of Justice on the final date for submission.

The FFA called it a “historic moment” as the agency submitted its climate change to the ICJ. “A landmark moment for our Oceans, our Fisheries and our Future: Forum Fisheries Committee Officials Chair Director Glen Joseph of the Marshall Islands, supported by our Director-General Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, filed FFA’s first ever submission to the International Court of Justice in The Hague,” the FFA said in a statement.

“This marks a huge step forward in our collective work to address climate change, echoing the call for urgent and decisive action.”

The filings by Pacific island nations and agencies follow last year’s historic adoption of UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/77/276, led by Vanuatu along with 14 co-signatory states. The resolution cites Article 65 of the Statute of the Court, requesting the ICJ to give an advisory opinion on “the obligations of States in respect of climate change.”

Ambassador deBrum was accompanied by Augustine Sokimi, legal counsel for the RMI Permanent Mission to the UN Office and other international organizations in Geneva, and Atina Schutz, Special Assistant Attorney General at the RMI AG’s Office.

The FFA’s submission to the ICJ comes just several weeks after a workshop on climate impacts on Pacific fisheries was held in New Zealand. That FFA workshop looked at potential economic impacts on tuna fisheries, and biodiversity loss and ecosystem disruption from climate change.

Key concerns for fisheries managers are warming ocean temperatures and the acidification of the oceans as more and more carbon ends up in the seas. As tuna fisheries support island economies through the large revenues generated, Forum Fisheries Agency members are becoming increasingly concerned with and focused on climate impacts on tuna.

“Higher temperature events in the paleo records — 10,000-12,000 BC — have been associated with … mass species extinctions up to 70 percent,” said a presentation delivered at the FFA climate workshop by Christophe Menkes. “That is one of the current fears for the ecosystems.”

Menkes added: “Species already in warm environments probably cannot cope with a much warmer environment.” This leaves extinction or migration to higher latitudes where ocean temperatures are cooler as two possibilities.

Currently, the Parties to the Nauru Agreement islands — including RMI — control waters where over 50 percent of the world’s skipjack are caught. Revenue from the PNA-managed purse seine fishery has risen from $60 million in 2010 to about $500 million last year. But ocean warming clearly threatens this picture.

Kiribati and Samoa also filed their respective national written statements March 22 with Samoa also filing on behalf the Alliance of Small Island States. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Forum Fisheries Agency also filed their their own written statements in support of the initiative.

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