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Protecting, conserving and restoring whale populations in the Pacific islands
by Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (Intergovernmental organization)

A partnership between SPREP, governments of Pacific Island Countries and Territories and other governments in the Pacific region, IGOs, NGOs, and stakeholders in the private sector to promote the conservation of whales in the Pacific islands region to restore depleted whale populations, and improve the livelihoods of Pacific islands people.


The populations of large whales in the Pacific region were severely depleted by commercial whaling operations last century. Although populations are slowly recovering, they are now under stress from a number of threats, including risks from:

Ingestion of, or entanglement in, marine debris, including discarded fishing gear
Noise, including from low-frequency active sonars, seismic surveys
By-catch in fishing operations
Climate change
Poorly-managed whale watching operations.

The Pacific islands is an acknowledged global leader in the establishment of whale sanctuaries, with over 12 million sq km of Pacific islands EEZs designated as whale sanctuaries. This commitment will engender new levels of commitment by governments and other stakeholders, and new partnerships to enhance the conservation of whales in the region, through a five-year management plan that will maximise the level of protection available to whales across the Pacific islands region (which containsover 10% of the planets oceans).

To improve global awareness of the Pacific islands achievements in establishing whale sanctuaries over vast areas of ocean
To increase collaboration between governments and other stakeholders to exchange traditional knowledge, lessons learned and scientific information on the conservation and management of whales in the Pacific islands
To promote better monitoring of the status and trends of whale populations in the Pacific islands and to involve local communities through participatory monitoring
To promote best practice whale and dolphin watching and whale and dolphin-based tourism across the region and to promote the involvement of Ministries of Tourism or National Tourism Authorities, private sector and local communities in these activities
To support measures which limit the discharge or dumping of fishing gear and other sources of marine debris into the ocean in the Pacific islands, including from land-based sources
To improve the awareness of fishermen and local communities of the potential impact of marine debris on marine life and in particular cetaceans
To promote research into the impacts of climate change on whale populations in the Pacific islands
To generate new funding opportunities and commitments to support the conservation of whales in the Pacific islands.

Implementation Methodologies and Governance:

Implementing entity: SPREP, responsible for project management.
Executing entity: Governments of individual Pacific island countries and territories
Oversight body: A board, chaired by SPREP, with membership from all partners, to review implementation and provide strategic guidance.
Progress reports
By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
Type of commitment
  • Coastal clean-ups
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
  • Integrated Coastal Management
  • Large Marine Ecosystem approach
By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
Type of commitment
  • MPA management and/or enforcement
By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
Type of commitment
  • Economic benefits from sustainable tourism
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
  • Research capacity development
  • Training and professional development
  • Scientific cooperation
  • Actions that support SIDS and LDCs
Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
Type of commitment
  • Legal/policy/institutional measures
Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want
Type of commitment
  • Strengthening ocean governance, for example through the development of a national ocean policy or regional ocean policy
December 2017
Adoption by countries and territories of the Pacific Islands region of the Pacific Islands Year of the Whale Declaration 2016/17
December 2019
Enforcement of existing measures, and where appropriate, introduction of new measures, to stop the discharge or dumping of fishing gear and other sources of marine debris into the ocean in the Pacific Islands, including from land-based sources
July 2019
Development of a regional protocol for the training of operators and guides in best-practice whale- and dolphin-watching
September 2020
Adoption and implementation by countries and territories of the Pacific Islands region of a comprehensive Whale and Dolphin Action Plan to guide the activities of individual countries and territories - adoption by September 2017
In-kind contribution
In-kind contribution by stakeholders, including technical support and assistance, staff and technical support from SPREP and other regional and global entities, financial support from a variety of potential sources.
Basic information
Time-frame: September, 2017 - September, 2020
Government of Tonga Government of Samoa Government of French Polynesia Government of the Cook Islands Government of Papua New Guinea Government of New Zealand Government of Australia South Pacific Tourism Organisation UNEP International Whaling Commission Non-governmental organisations: World Animal Protection (Global Ghost Gear Initiative) Blue Climate Solutions GRID-Arendal The Ocean Foundation International Fund for Animal Welfare Forest&Bird (New Zealand) Wildlife Conservation Society South Pacific Whale Research Consortium Conservation International
Ocean Basins
  • North Pacific
  • South Pacific
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
Local communities involved in whale and dolphin watching operations
Contact information
Michael Donoghue, Mr, michaeld@sprep.org, +685 21929
Apia, Samoa
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