Monday, July 15, 2013

Kiribati Could Lose UNESCO World Heritage Site Status

Islands Business reports that unless Kiribati closes 25% of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) to fishing by the end of 2014, UNESCO will strip the country of its World Heritage site status. Currently only 3% of PIPA is closed to fishing.
A decade ago, Gregory Stone and a group of coral reef ecologists suggested to Kiribati’s leadership that the long-ignored Phoenix Islands were a treasure that could bring the country prestige and tourism as a world-class marine protected area.

But President Anote Tong said closing it to commercial tuna fishing would cost Kiribati millions of dollars that would have to be compensated by creating a trust fund.

Stone, today the senior vice president and chief scientist for oceans of one of the world’s biggest conservation organisations, Conservation International (CI), went along. But negotiations on the level of compensation dragged on and are still dragging on, with no agreement in sight. “We’re still deciding what the compensation level should be,” Tong said in a recent interview in Tarawa. So far, fishing is banned only in the parts around the islands where no fishing was taking place anyway, a total of three percent of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), as the management plan available at phoenixislands.org details.

[snip]

Tong didn’t set a new price tag for closing the whole reserve, but the previous one was $50 million for the PIPA trust fund.

So far, the fund is still empty. Under the current management plan, unless CI raises $13.5 million by the end of next year and Kiribati closes off an additional 25 percent to fishing, PIPA risks losing its prestigious designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the world’s largest.

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