Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fiji reviews its Sea Turtle Recovery Plan

Turtle survey conducted in Ringgold, Fiji in 2010, with support from the late Mr. Lui Bell of SPREP

Published 29 November 2013: Developed during the 2006 Pacific Year of the Sea Turtle, the Fiji Sea Turtle Recovery Plan (FSTRP) has since seen the successful implementation of several key actions, including the declaration of a 10 year Moratorium from 2009 to 2018, and the establishment of the Dau ni Vonu, a community network of now more than 80 volunteer turtle monitors. 

This was revealed over a two day workshop hosted by the Department of Fisheries and WWF as stakeholders met to review and update the FSTRP given progress made, new information and emerging challenges.

The review was guided by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s Regional Marine Turtle Action Plan 2013 - 2017 which was developed and subsequently endorsed by regional members, including Fiji in 2012. 

"It has been encouraging to see the level of implementation of the Fiji Sea Turtle Recovery Plan by the numerous stakeholders and we are positive that the momentum created will also carry through to the revised Plan," says Mr. Aisake Batiabasaga, Principal Research Officer at Fiji's Department of Fisheries. 

"To further strengthen recovery efforts, the Department has also declared that there will be a zero issuance of harvest exemption permits during the nesting months of November to March." 

A key feature of the review was the alignment and streamlining of the FSTRP with other frameworks including the Regional Marine Turtle Action Plan, National Biodiversity Strategies and; Action Plans and commitments under the Convention on Migratory Species and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Marine turtle populations in Fiji, as in other places, declined dramatically due to their being over-harvested or through the loss of their feeding and nesting grounds.

Through the Fiji Sea Turtle Recovery Plan, actions taken by Fiji such as the increased awareness and community engagement are only beginning to take effect after at least 10 years of effort.

This was emphasised by reports from a community turtle monitor that in the span of a 1 hour 15 minute dive, they encountered 51 turtles.  

Marine Spatial Planning as an ecological and economic process

28 November, Steve Pognowski, Marine Spatial Planning, Suva Fiji - Meeting biodiversity targets, building networks of regional agencies and creating income streams for traditional owners from natural therapies formed part of fourth-day workshop discussions at the University of South Pacific, Suva, Fiji on Thursday (28 November).

Access and benefit-sharing (ABS) also featured in a presentation on the Nagoya Protocol, which supports the ability of communities to gain income from developing or selling the rights to a commercial product made from organic compounds from their region.

Andreas Drews, of the ABS Initiative, said the long process leading to the signing of the Nagoya Protocol in 2010 had put in place a rigorous regulatory framework. He said the Protocol helped protect communities (that had used natural products for generations) from exploitation.

Riibeta Abeta, MACBIO Regional Planning Officer in Suva, said the workshop was helping attendees find connections from other countries and similar projects for collaboration.

"It's easy to think that we are working by ourselves but we can have more cooperation with each other. There are already a lot of agencies, NGOs and government departments that are doing good work in the region and we can learn from each other, not compete with each other."

Fiji to host the 9th Pacific Nature Conservation and Protected Areas Conference

Published 19 April 2013 - Fiji will host the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas this December, the theme of which is Natural Solutions in a Changing Pacific.
Coordinated in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Pacific Roundtable for Nature Conservation, this is the largest conservation-focused meeting in the Pacific and will bring together participants from many countries and interests, ranging from scientists, to politicians and community leaders.
"Protecting Pacific biodiversity and the ecosystems that support the livelihoods of communities and the national development aspirations of island countries has become more urgent as the region faces the prospect of major environmental change resulting from climate change and other pressures," said Mr. Stuart Chape, the Director of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management at SPREP.
"The 9th nature conservation and protected areas conference to be held in Fiji 2-6 December this year is part of an ongoing process to develop and make relevant the region's conservation agenda that started in 1975."

Filling the information gap for successful Marine Spatial Planning

27 November, Steve Pognowski, Marine Spatial Planning, Suva Fiji - Obstacles in conveying the benefits to communities of Marine Spatial Planning and possible solutions formed a key part of third day workshop discussions at the University of South Pacific, Suva, Fiji on Wednesday 27 November.

“A regional approach for spatial planning is interesting because many issues like biodiversity and human activities are not limited to national jurisdiction. It should strengthen cooperation and integrated management,” said François Gauthiez, French Marine Protected Areas Agency.

“The activities under this project will support key priorities under the Oceanscape framework, working towards a balanced marine management approach for sustainable development, management and conservation,” said Tim Carruthers, SPREP Marine and Coastal Advisor.

Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and French Marine Protected Areas Agency (AAMP) are the main partners in the new programme, which is funded by the European Commission (BEST-2013).

Dynamic planning will help Pacific meet new challenges

26 November 2013, Steve Pogonowski, Marine Spatial Planning, Suva Fiji - Marine spatial planning will become ever more vital as the Pacific islands and territories deal with the impacts of rising sea levels, ocean acidification and ocean warming, attendees at a workshop at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, heard yesterday.

Sangeeta Mangubhai, Senior Programme Officer for IUCN Oceania Regional Office, said she hoped participants would all gain a greater understanding of initiating and carrying out good marine spatial planning.

“One of the things I really liked was listening to the case studies and also hearing some of the regional efforts being made to support countries if they decide to implement marine spatial planning from coastal waters out to their EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone),” she said.

“Especially for our Pacific Island participants - and there are some here representing their governments - I hope they can gain a real understanding of marine spatial planning is and the role it can play in managing the valuable resources in their countries to achieve the ecological, social and economic outcomes that they want.

“If they undergo a marine spatial planning process, they now realise there are experts and experiences in this region that they can tap into to get support and assistance.”

Keynote Speakers Pacific Nature Conference

This year's conference line-up features nature conservation success stories from around the Pacific, panel speakers and keynote speakers from leading organisations and initiatives. Keynote speakers include the Hon. Henry Puna, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands; Ms Nunia Thomas; Tusani Joe Reti; Mr Nik Sekhran; and Professor Tim Flannery.

Professor Tim Flannery to give opening address at 9th Pacific Nature Conference

Published 25 October 2013 - Internationally-renowned author, Professor Tim Flannery, will be the keynote speaker at the opening of the 9thPacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas.The conference, which takes place every 4-5 years, will be held in Suva, Fiji from 2-6 December and is the Pacific region's premier event shaping biodiversity conservation work.

Professor Flannery will make the opening keynote address of the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas. ”So much of Earth's biodiversity resides in the southwest Pacific,” Professor Flannery commented, ”With climate change such a major threat, this conference offers an important opportunity to protect unique organisms found nowhere else.” This statement reflects the theme of the conference, Natural Solutions: Building Resilience for a Changing Pacific.

About the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas

Nature conservation programmes in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) are guided by this regional conservation conference that has met every 4-5 years since 1975. It has become the principal gathering of government agencies, NGOs, community-based organisations, donor agencies and individual experts concerned with conservation science and practice in the Pacific Islands region. It is an opportunity to set a Pacific based and initiated agenda for Pacific conservation for the next five years.

The Pacific Islands Environment Leadership Awards

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is establishing the Pacific Islands Environment Leadership Awards specifically to reward and promote the contributions of individuals, communities, non-governmental organisations, private enterprises, and countries towards achieving an environmentally sustainable Pacific. The awards will also incorporate the Pacific Environmental media awards developed by the SPREP Communications Team.

The inaugural awards presentation will be held during the Ninth Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas, with ensuing awards selection and presentations held every 2 years thereafter.

International collaboration vital to success of Marine Spatial Planning

25 November 2013, Steve Pogonowski, Marine Spatial Planning, Suva Fiji -  Creating marine spatial plans that promote sustainable ocean and coastal management is vital across local, national and regional levels, attendees at a workshop at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, heard yesterday.

Marine Spatial Planning is the process of analysing and making recommendations on the distribution of human activities affecting coastal and marine areas. A key goal is to balance ecological, economic, social and cultural objectives.

New regional marine programme launched

PACIOCEA Press Release, 26 November, Suva Fiji - PACIOCEA, a new regional marine programme, has today been launched in Fiji for a two year project in the central and west Pacific. The challenge is to deliver a diagnosis of ecological, economic, social and cultural issues to improve marine management at a large scale and identify and deal with resources for the coastal population.

Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and French Marine Protected Areas Agency, the main partners, officially launched this Pacific Ocean Ecosystem Analysis funded by the European Commission (BEST-2013). 50 international and regional experts, decision-makers and NGO representatives attended the presentation of PACIOCEA programme during a one week Marine Spatial Planning workshop, organized in University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji.

Natural Solutions: Building Resilience for a Changing Pacific

Welcome message from Mr David Sheppard, Director General of the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme

Talofa and Ni Sa Bula Vinaka!

On behalf of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and our partner organisations of the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation, it is my pleasure to invite you to the Ninth Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas which will take place in Suva, Fiji from 2-6 December 2013.

The nature conservation conference, a significant event for biodiversity conservation in the Pacific region, has taken place every 4-5 years since 1975 and is the region's premier event for biodiversity. The conference is open to all and is attended by government representatives, NGOs, development partners, international organizations and Pacific Island communities. The theme of this year's conference is Natural Solutions – Building Resilience for a Changing Pacific.

Come join us in celebrating our successes and be part of planning the solutions to the challenges that face the Pacific region in managing and conserving our natural resources.


The 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Hyderabad, India, 8 - 19 October, 2012. The convention has three key objectives - conservation of biodiversity; sustainable use of biodiversity; and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources.
The Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are Pacific island countries that are a party to the CBD.
For more information on the CBD please visit

ARCHIVES: Blogging it! CBD COP 11, 19 October!

Well we fast reached the end of CBD COP11 journey – this week has gone by faster than I can write blogs, only just realised that I have only had time to write one blog this week! This whole trip has flown by quicker than I think anyone would have expected – it has been action packed, colourful and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
As an update on things since the last blog…we made it to the GLISPA evening event where David Sheppard signed the MoU with the SCB, a great result for SPREP and the Pacific. It was a highly successful evening where we enjoyed wonderful food, presentations, networking opportunities, a Go4BioDiv youth performance and an Island fiesta – a great night for all, well done GLISPA!
On the same night, Heather Ketebengang represented current and future generations of Palau when she received the World Future Council Gold Award for the best ocean and coastal policies. Yet another example of Pacific success on a global scale and a great opportunity for Heather, who we will no doubt see more of in conservation circles.
Thursday morning was a huge day for Pacific and SPREP delegates. We had an early start to the day with the GEF-SPREP breakfast event. This was a fantastic opportunity for Pacific countries and SPREP to get the full attention of GEF and their new CEO, Dr Naoko Ishii. These opportunities do not come along that often and I think we all made the most of it. The outcome is without doubt a stronger relationship with GEF and some full bellies.
In the evening SPREP hosted it side event – Nature protects if She is protected – we began setting up the room just after 5pm for our 6.15 start…by 5.15 people started to arrive! Thankfully we had some colourful pacific video clips to play to keep them all entertained while we did the set up. In the end around 60 people turned up to our event that was meant to host 50! Well done to the SPREP team and Pacific delegates on raising SPREP’s and this side event’s profile to attract such a large audience.
The event was mc-ed by David and went really well. It featured the Minister of Fiji, Col. Samuela Saumatua, who took the opportunity to launch the 9thPacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas. Other Pacific delegates contributed with presentations promoting Pacific successes in protected areas work, especially around marine resources.
The event was finished with a Go4BioDiv performance, well until security shut them done for being too enthusiastic and loud – in my opinion there’s no such thing! – but a big thank you to Go4BioDive youth team for their performance it added that extra something to our side event – fantastic job!
Now that Friday has arrived, the last day of the COP11 event, it is an opportunity to sit back and reflect on over two weeks of solid work. Overall I believe the Pacific and SPREP delegation at COP11 has been a success – we have achieved the goals we set out to achieve, build on existing relationships and established solid new partnerships.
As well as this we built new personal friendships, saw a small corner of this colourful country and experienced some of the people’s wonderful hospitality. All in all it has been a highly successful trip and personally rewarding journey.
We are all tired and exhausted from the long hours and hard work – but importantly satisfied with a job well done. Now it’s time for the 3 day journey back to Samoa!

ARCHIVES: Blogging it! CBD COP 11, 18 October!

Neil Walkinshaw from NZ is the SPREP Conference Coordinator, working at SPREP to assist in setting up the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas, to be held in Fiji 2013. It’s Neil’s first time to attend a Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The youth are here; they are colourful; they are enthusiastic; they are motivated; they are loud and they have a very important message for CBD countries and delegates: More work needs to be done globally to preserve coastal and marine biodiversity and resources. In addition young people should be included in decision making processes to reverse this biodiversity loss – after all, the youth of today will inherit tomorrow’s world.
The youth delegation has been supported by the SCBD, German Development Corporation (GIZ) and other partners. Interestingly people under the age of 30 make up between 40 and 50% of the world’s population – a staggering fact to consider.
This fun-loving delegation consists of 35 ‘messengers’ (youth members) from 5 continents, representing indigenous communities, students, scientists, educators, economists and many more walks of life. These messengers have been fortunate to send time in the Sundarbans, the largest single block of tidal mangrove forest in the world (stretching from Bangladesh into India). While in this part of India the team worked together on preparing their entertaining itinerary for this COP event and developing the youth declaration on conserving coastal and marine biodiversity for sustaining life and livelihoods.
While at the COP11 youth delegates have made their presences felt in a vibrant way. The Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) also made an intervention on behalf of youth and future generations – “we are not here just to whine about problems and ask you to fix them for us. We are here because we want to take responsibility for our own future. We are already committed with our activities back home in reshaping our future. We want to be understood, to be heard.”
Not only have they made their voices heard, the Go4BioDiv International Youth Forum have made a creative and colourful impact on the COP11. Our attention was first drawn to the youth delegation on our first day here with their delightful exhibition booth and papier-mache display – “Mother Nature and the mangrove garden” – check out these fantastic pieces of artwork!
Yesterday, David Sheppard and I attended a Go4BioDiv lunch side event – actually it was a live performance! These 35 highly energetic messengers put on an entertaining show that really pulled everyone’s attention. They took this opportunity to call on COP delegates to work together to do more to preserve biodiversity, particularly coastal marine resources and announced the Go4BioDiv Youth Forum Declaration. Not only were they loud and entertaining their message was highly relevant to the overall COP objectives – by far the best side event I’ve been too here!
After this event I spoke to some of the messengers about their experiences at the COP, Sagar Suri, from India had this to say “After I came here, I learnt that we have common problems and common solutions, it’s been great we can come together to discuss these.We had 35 different points of view, to bring all those together in one common document was a real challenge – but rewarding to get there in the end.” This certainly gave these messengers an idea of what it’s like for the 193 COP delegates to reach a consensus on their documents!
Heather Ketebengang, from the Pacific Island of Palau, commenting on the Sandarbans experience said “it was tough. We lived with and got in touch with nature every day. It was a great opportunity to get to know each other and every ones different experiences and backgrounds. Attending this event (COP11) has been a really good opportunity for me to experience the higher level processes occurring around conservation.” I would also say that the invigorating youth presence has been a great experience for the all the COP delegations as well!
Regarding the where to from here for these youth delegates, Ms Ketebengang replied “my wish and hope is that in the future, my children and grandchildren will get to see Palau the way I do now.” This was a common message to come from the youth members I spoke with, a very important perspective everyone here should remember.
As one messenger put it – “it is us who live with the consequences of today’s actions and inactions, and we are here to create our future!” With these messengers, the outlook for the future is bright indeed.

ARCHIVES: Blogging it! CBD COP 11, 16 October!

Neil Walkinshaw from NZ is the SPREP Conference Coordinator, working at SPREP to assist in setting up the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas, to be held in Fiji 2013. It’s Neil’s first time to attend a Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
"Week two of the CBD COP11 in Hyderabad, India is now in full swing. The first noticeable difference of this week is the dramatic increase in number of people present. It is certainly a lot slower moving around now, just walking between locations can be a challenge – it brings into focus the compact nature of the venue and limited locations for meetings - however the increase in numbers also bring more variety and colour to the event, still not sure its 15,000 delegates though.
This week sees the start of the high level segment (HLS) with many of the ministers arriving Monday and today. HLS delegates are given pins to wear to distinguish them and allow access to specially designated events. The SPREP banner will be raised by David Sheppard and Stuart Chape at these events. Both were given colourful peacock badges – you can see me trying Stuart’s one on in the photo!
SPREP and Pacific delegates continue to attend the main working group sessions and key side events focussed on Pacific issues and discussions. We are also preparing for the SPREP side event this Thursday, lots to prepare and get done.
Today has also seen David Sheppard, on behalf of SPREP, sign an MoU with UNEP to cement this relationship and secure more global attention and resources to assist with the preservation of biodiversity in the Pacific.
Today has been a rather action packed day – on top of this MoU we have the opening event of the plenary session of the HLS – motivating speeches by the Prime Minister of India and other officials were made pushing for agreement and commitment from countries to achieve the Acihi Targets. Jill Key also assisted GLISPA facilitate its day time side event on Island Bright spots.
Tonight brings yet more positive attention for the Pacific. Palau will receive a World Future Council Award for its leadership in implementing policies that are conserving their biodiversity and setting them on a path to achieve their Acihi Targets – David Sheppard and myself will be attending this ceremony to offer our support.From this event we head to the GLISPA evening side event celebrating Island leadership and commitment to conservation and sustainability. This event starts with David signing his second MoU of the day with SCBD to further link SPREP and the Pacific with key international organisations – this can only be a good thing.
Outside of COP11, the SPREP team managed to find a small amount of time to explore some of the sites around Hyderabad. I ended up visiting a couple of ancient forts that provided panoramic views of the Hyderabad and the country side – simply magic. We also stopped by a couple of ancient temples that, despite being tourist attractions, are still in use every day by local people, a very interesting experience. No sightseeing trip would be complete without a wildlife component – I managed to see squirrels, monkeys, turtles, lizards and camels…now I just need to see a snake (from a distance thanks!) and an elephant…couple of days to go so fingers crossed!"

ARCHIVES: Blogging it! CBd COP 11, 16 October

Ms. Seini Fotu from Tonga is at her very first CBD COP, it's also her first time to represent Tonga at such a meeting. She is the Deputy Head of the Biodiversity Section in the Environment Division of Tonga.
"It is the 16th of October 2012, and only 3 more days to go before COP11 draws to a close. Sitting here writing this blog I can only reflect over experiences. After the initial arrival excitement wears off, you settle into the routine COP duties, which after a while I have to admit, can be quite tiring.
This is put into true perspective when you are confronted by the harsh reality of global decision-making whereby after weeks of negotiation, country delegates are still trying to come to a consensus over various issues on the conservation and management of biodiversity. It has been a long week and despite everybody’s concerted efforts, you can tell that there is still lot left to do and yet so little time to do it. “One Pacific Voice” I believe has been a success in this context as it has been an effective medium for the Pacific delegates to voice our concerns on issues deemed to be significant importance to the Pacific.
On a lighter note, the weekend was quite refreshing when country delegates were free to explore Hyderabad to sight see and shop. It was good to step out and about and experience Indian culture and traditions. I joined few of the Pacific delegates at the Bazaar on Saturday and I was amazed at how crowded it was with people, vehicles, not to count the variety of goods/products on display. Kids were also running around carrying different things to sell and after 1 – 2 hours, we were pretty much weighed down with shopping bags and heading back to each our hotels.
On Sunday, a group of us decided to visit the Nehru Zoological Park. It was a beautiful day and surprisingly full at the Zoo as families spent their day in the sun either having a quiet picnic or taking the kids to see the animals. We ourselves had a similar intention so after being greeted by our very own Nehru Zoological Park tour guide, we set off to see the many species of animals both marine and terrestrial that made India special. Being typical pacific people, w were not even half way through the Zoo, we were already getting tired and hungry. We soldiered on however and managed to cover all the animals in the Zoo before we left to get something to eat. At the end of the day, my Sunday at the zoo felt pretty much like the COP in a nutshell. It was a beautiful day, a variety of the world’s wildlife at stake, and here we were, the delegates tasked with stewardship of it all and somewhat tired."

ARCHIVES: Blogging it! CBD COP 11, 11 October

Ms. Seini Fotu from Tonga is at her very first CBD COP, it's also her first time to represent Tonga at such a meeting. She is the Deputy Head of the Biodiversity Section in the Environment Division of Tonga.
"Three days have passed at the 11thConference of the Parties for CBD and I have to say that I’m still taking everything in. It is amazing I have to admit that thousands of people from around the globe have descended on this one country, city and venue, to discuss the way forward on global biodiversity.
The event I am assured will carry on for 2 weeks and in that context well done on some countries who have made it here with a number of delegates. I am the only representative from Tonga and already it has been exhausting attending the many aspects of COP such as working groups, side events, and plenary sessions. It is my intention however to do my country proud, so expect to see me everywhere regardless of how difficult jumping from one Working Group to the other! I count myself fortunate to have the opportunity to learn and network not only with other Pacific delegates but the wider world present here. As a first time COP delegate, I find it quite advantageous to be exposed to such a setting, talking to more experienced colleagues in this field who are much more well aware of the many dynamics.
Every morning before we break out to working groups there is always information sharing with Pacific delegates on what has happened at different meetings attended to fill in the gaps so everyone can be up to date with everything.
Communication through skype also helps as each and every delegate helps guide the other, sharing what they have learnt during individual working group sessions. In the end of this sort of camaraderie, comforts me knowing that although I am the sole Tongan representative, I am not alone.
The joint statements made to represent the Pacific have truly helped open the door for support of our position from other regions, so congratulations are in order for the Pacific team for a job well done so FAR that is. We still have a little longer to go, so keep up the good work ethic. To conclude this entry, regardless of outcomes we as delegates of the Pacific can only do our best.
May the voice of the Pacific be heard by world!!!"

ARCHIVES: Blogging it! CBD COP 11, 10 October

Neil Walkinshaw from NZ is the SPREP Conference Coordinator, working at SPREP to assist in setting up the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas, to be held in Fiji 2013. It’s Neil’s first time to attend a Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The COP11 meeting is now officially open and in full swing. Monday morning was taken up by the official opening ceremony and plenary sessions with India taking the chair from Japan. The two main working groups began the same day with SPREP staff and Pacific delegates represented in both streams. The Pacific delegates, supported by SPREP, have made regular and positive interventions in the proceedings to ensure the Pacific voice and perspective is heard.
A plethora of interesting side events is also underway. These side events are providing update reports, developments and new initiatives on a wide range of topics, as well as lessons learnt and capacity building opportunities to delegates and countries – check out the blogs on ABS and EBSA for more on these two topics. 
These side events have proven excellent opportunities to raise awareness and seek support for the 9th Pacific Islands Conference to be held in Fiji next year and other SPREP work in the Pacific. Of course it is always great fun making new contacts and meeting new potential partnerships.
The SPREP display booth at the CEPA Fair is proving rather popular with delegates with many resources been taken up daily. Every time I stop by to keep things tidy I get swamped with delegates interested to know more about SPREP and our role and work in the Pacific – describing where Samoa is, in answer to where we are based, is always an amusing experience! Thankfully there’s a map on the back of our business cards!
The young Indian CEPA Fair support staff is always on hand to offer their assistance – often four or more of them at once – at times though their assistance can make things take a little longer than necessary, but their enthusiasm and willingness to help always brings a smile.

ARCHIVES: Blogging it! CBD COP 11: 9 October

Ms. Seini Fotu from Tonga is at her very first CBD COP, it's also her first time to represent Tonga at such a meeting. She is the Deputy Head of the Biodiversity Section in the Environment Division of Tonga. 
"My journey to Hyderabad to attend 11th Conference of the Parties kicked off from Tonga – NZ – Hong Kong – Mumbai then finally Hyderabad. It was a tiring trip with stop over’s along the way and lack of sleep during the flight. After long hours of traveling, I finally landed in Hyderabad on Monday 8th of October just in time for the Opening of the Conference. Though I was exhausted from the long trip and wished nothing else to do but go straight to the hotel and sleep, I knew I wouldn’t be able to experience COP11 if I didn’t attend the opening of the conference. So there I was, hopping out of the plane and straight to the hotel to shower and then find my way to the Conference Centre.
Travelling to the HICC/Conference Centre was a good experience riding in the small Indian taxi and shocked to how the traffic was so busy. It also gave me an insight of what life is like in India. It has always been a fantasy of mine to see with my own eyes what I see on TV and I have to say that from my personal observation of the poverty experienced in India, I count myself lucky, though growing up in a small country of Tonga but such poverty is not experienced.
My experience of the CBD COP 11 opening was interesting. Since it is my first time to attend such a conference, I found myself lucky to experience CBD COP11. It was interesting to witness countries expressing their support and needs, and voicing their concerns towards the status of biodiversity in their countries and how it is threatened and extinct from human carelessness.
Though I am still new to the COP meeting, I feel that this opportunity will equip me and build my capacity in negotiation process. I am looking forward to learn more as days go by, mingling with delegates from different countries and other counterparts and experience more about India while I have the chance!"

ARCHIVES: Blogging it! CBD COP 11: 8 October

Neil Walkinshaw from NZ is the SPREP Conference Coordinator, working at SPREP to assist in setting up the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas, to be held in Fiji 2013. Its’ Neil’s first time to attend a Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
"Time is flying by here in India - lots to do and not much time to do it in and the COP has yet to really kick off! Saturday and Sunday has seen the SPREP team working flat out getting resources ready, setting up our display booth and finding our feet (or more accurately meeting rooms!), and networking with other delegates and key partner organisations - always good fun catching up with friends, putting names to faces and meeting new people.
We have had several preparatory meetings with Pacific countries, other island states from around the world and partner organisations such as GLISPA to discuss messages that have focused on the threatened fragile ecosystems of island states, particularly from the impacts of climate change and invasive species, and the need for continued and sustainable support from donors and development partners to protect these ecosystems.
One point everyone seems to agree on is the friendly and supportive nature of local support staff - this applies to the hotel and conference stuff. One thing I’m not sure I'll ever get used to is the level of wait service - there is a real reluctance to allow people to service themselves food or pour their own drinks - having someone dish my food up for me just doesn't feel right - but regardless everyone is super friendly and always trying to that little bit extra to help out, it should be wonderful help over the coming weeks with our heavy workloads."

ARCHIVES: Blogging it! CBD COP 11: 6 October

Neil Walkinshaw from NZ is the SPREP Conference Coordinator, working at SPREP to assist in setting up the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas, to be held in Fiji 2013. Its’ Neil’s first time to attend a Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Our journey to Hyderabad, India began Wednesday night on the 3rd with the usual beautiful Samoan evening - but of course the weather is always great in Samoa...the less said about the Auckland weather during our stopover the better!
After over 18 hours in the air, two stopovers, and numerous airplane meals we arrived blurry eyed at our destination just as the clock struck 5th October here - for comparative purposes this part of India is five and half hours behind Samoa.
The reception in India was fantastic especially for us travel weary people.We were met the moment we stepped off the plane by people dedicated to assisting COP11 delegates and were helped all the way from immigration to our pre-organised and prepaid transport to our hotel - in fact I'd say there were more people assisting the delegates than actual delegates...or maybe that was just a reflection of the hour of our flight.
One thing that struck me about the trip to the hotel was the lack of lights on in buildings we past. For a city with about 10 million people I was expecting a glowing metropolis that you could see for miles about, but that just wasn’t the case on the evening of our arrival.
After a few hours sleep our first day in Hyderabad our first job of the day was to head down to the convention centre and register. This trip gave us our first real impression of what India actually looked like – the simplest way to describe the sights is a mix of modern looking buildings, buildings under construction and make shift tents with people everywhere - a real mix and feel of developed and developing. The common form of transport appears to be motorbikes and its amazing how many vehicles can fit side by side in a couple of lanes of traffic - its equally amazing that everyone still seems to have their side mirrors!
We arrived safe and sound at the sprawling COP11 complex in good order and few traffic problems. We faced a short walk and only one security check point before pausing to pose for photo IDs - then it was off for our first exploration of the venue and numerous other security check points.
Just like at the airport there were plenty of support staff to assist with any needs - at one point I had four friendly locals trying to help me find our SPREP booth, they even gave me a decade of biodiversity badge – can’t complain with that service!
We also collected our welcome packs, which were full of all sorts of goodies, and checked out the facilities for side meetings - seems like it might be a bit of a tight squeeze to fit everyone but we shall see what they have organised over the coming days!