Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vanuatu Launches the Pacific Year of the Dugong Campaign

6 June 2011, Vanuatu - The Vanuatu Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Steven Kalsakau, launched the Vanuatu Pacific Year of the Dugong campaign on Monday 6 June 2011. The launched was held at the Vanuatu Kultural Senta, and was attended by representatives from various  Government Departments and NGOs.

Honourable Minister Steven Kalsakau,
Minister of lands Geology & Mines & Natural Resources giving official speech
The launch was together with the launching of a book, “Santo 2006”, produced by Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) Noumea. The book entails a “ridge to reef” research project conducted on Vanuatu’s biggest island, Espiritu Santo, in 2006. The project involved many Government agencies in Vanuatu.

The Vanuatu PYOD launch was also on "World Environment Day" June 6.

The Vanuatu Department of Environment is working with the Department of Fisheries on activities, including school awareness programme, for the second half of the year. The questionnaire-based dugong survey is also being conducted through-out Vanuatu involving Peace Corp Volunteers for the outer Islands.

Minister of Lands, Geology & Mines & Natural Resources
Hon. Steven Kalsakau alongside other Dignitaries
Below is the speech made by the Vanuatu Minister of Lands and Natural Resources and Environment at the official launch

Honourable Steven Kalsakau, Minister of Lands & Natural Resources & Environment Official Speech at Official Launching of the Regional Year of The  Dugong in Vanuatu.

Time & Date: 3:30pm June 6th 2011
Venue: Vanuatu Kultural Senta (VKS)
Honorouble Prime Minister, Sato Kilman
Ministers & Members of Parliament
Heads and staff of different government departments
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Representatives of  Non –Government Organisations
Representatives of the Vanuatu Christian Council
Representatives of  Chiefs
Invited Guests
Ladies & Gentlemen

I am very happy to accept this invitation, to be able to be part of this ceremony this afternoon, to officiate this special event. I would like to take this opportunity as the minister responsible for the environment in Vanuatu. To say thank you to the Department of Environmental Protection & Conservation and the Department of Fisheries of the Government of Vanuatu. For inviting me to give the official speech for the launching of the “Regional Year of the Dugong.”

Today we also commemorate “World Environment Day” which is always held on the 5th of June of Every Year. The main theme of this years’ world environment day is;

‘Forests: Nature at Your Service’

This World Environment Day theme also supports the 2011 UN International Year of the Forests.

At the Regional level, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has declared that 2011 be the ‘Regional Year of the Dugong’. The theme to celebrate this regional year of the dugong is

‘Respect and Protect’

These two themes reminds us of the importance of conserving and protecting our biodiversity in our world today and even in Vanuatu.

It reminds us that we should look after and safeguard the plants and animals, the nature and wildlife that our country has to offer. As they are an integral part of our society.

With the important themes of World Environment Day and the regional year of the dugong. It is very pleasing that Vanuatu can take part in these special event like other countries in the world. These events give us a chance to reflect upon our natural environments and things within them that we depend upon for the development and support of our livelihoods.

SPREP has declared that 2011 be the ‘Regional Year of the Dugong’. Dugongs or Sea Cows are marine mammals that mainly feed on Sea Grass. In Vanuatu they are mainly found on islands that have abundant seagrass habitats. Mainly Reef islands in the Banks, East Coast of Santo, Central and South West Coasts of Malekula, North East coast of Epi, Port Havannah on Efate and South East Coast on Tanna.

Dugongs are registered under the “Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora (CITES). Vanuatu is a member of CITES when we signed the convention in 1989. CITES has a list of Endangered Plants and Animals which has strict controls of trade of these species between countries of the world. Dugongs are listed in the international list of endangered species. Which means that they cannot be captured for sale or for consumption or trade within a country or between countries.

To mark this ‘regional Year of the Dugong’ the department of Environmental Protection & Conservation along with the Fisheries Department have planned some activities to carryout throughout the remainder of the year. Activities include exhibitions, school competitions in essay writing and art work. Printing of Posters and T- shirts. School Visits and talks to students. Radio talkback shows and tv programmes. As well as Community Awareness raising about the importance of conserving Dugongs.

It is my understanding that some communities in Vanuatu maintain some Cultural or Custom Practises associated with Dugongs. In some islands dugongs are hunted and eaten according to local customs and beliefs.

I would like to ask that these communities that if they continue with these cultural practices that they bear in mind that the animal is an endangered species. And that only one animal should be killed instead of ten or twenty at one time. Advice should be sought after from the Departments of Environment and Fisheries on such matters.

This would help ensure the sustainability of healthy Dugong Populations in the country.

As the Minister responsible for the Environment I would like to encourage all departments of government to work together with the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Department of Fisheries to carry out activities throughout the year to celebrate ‘Regional Year of the Dugong’. I would like to ask everyone involved to implement sound activities to raise awareness to our people around Vanuatu, especially our school children, So that they may learn more about Dugongs and help protect them so that they will always remain in our waters.

I would like to ask all communities around Vanuatu to work together with the departments of government to implement awareness raising activities within our different islands.

It is our duty, as citizens of our country to look after our lives and our environment. Because our environments also sustains our lives and provides for our livelihoods.
We must respect & Protect our plants and animals, especially endangered species such as the Dugong.

With this Speech, I as the Minister responsible for the Environment, have the great honour now to declare ‘ Regional Year of the Dugong’ Officially open this year 2011. And I would like to wish all departments responsible and all communities around Vanuatu a great celebration of the events to commemorate this year 2011as the ‘Regional Year of the Dugong’

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