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Biodiversity

In March, the government of Fiji declared that the nation’s marine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is to become a whale sanctuary. The sanctuary covers 1.26 million km2 of water used by migrating humpback whales for breeding and calving. The governments of Australia, the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa, as well as the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) have applauded Fiji’s efforts and emphasized the need for conserving whales in other Pacific island states. Besides implementing its main function – protecting marine biodiversity – the sanctuary is predicted to become a major tourist attraction, as has been the case in Tonga, New Zealand and Australia (ENS 2003).
The first regional marine plan under Australia’s Oceans Policy was launched in July. More than two million km2 of Australia’s ocean territory around Victoria, Tasmania, eastern South Australia and southern New South Wales, as well as the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island falls under the jurisdiction of this policy (National Oceans Office 2003). The development of the ocean management plan involved all relevant stakeholders, including commercial and recreational fishers, indigenous Australians, the conservation sector, industries and officials from different governmental bodies. The National Oceans Ministerial Board, established as a coordinating body, will provide for a comprehensive governmental framework for decision-making in the field of ocean protection. This is a big step toward protection of key ecosystems as well as the promotion of sustainable development of marine industries currently valued at more than US$19 400 million a year (National Oceans Office 2003).

Asia also has a great diversity of birds.

Its 2 700 species represent over 27 per cent of all bird species described. However, one in eight (12.5 per cent) of all bird species in the Asia region is globally threatened. The two primary threats are habitat destruction and human overexploitation. A total of 323 bird species are at risk of extinction over the next 100 years (Birdlife International 2003). Of this number, 41 are listed as “critical” and a further 65 are “endangered,” meaning that these species face a high risk of extinction over the next 10 years. The declining populations of birds such as the hornbill in Nepal (Box 2) reflect the general deterioration of biodiversity and the environment in the region (BirdLife International 2003).

Box 2: Endangered hornbill in Nepal

According to the IUCN’s 2003 Red List of Endangered Species, the hornbill is among Nepal’s most critically endangered birds. Habitat loss is the main threat to the hornbill, as deforestation in the region destroys nesting trees and feeding sites. The hornbill is also hunted by poachers who sell its beak and fat (which they call ‘hornbill oil’) for medicinal purposes. The dire circumstances of Nepal’s four species of hornbill are indicative of the survival challenges of many Asian birds, which are faced with habitat destruction and overexploitation.

Sources: Poudel 2003; Birdlife International 2003


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