Pacific Island people are ocean people, nurtured, sustained and inspired through our cultures and the dynamic relationship we have with our ocean. We come from some of the world’s smallest islands but we are citizens and steward of large ocean states nestled in the world’s largest ocean – we are voyagers, we are sons and daughters with children of our own. Today, our ocean is under threat, a victim of our apathy, selfishness and the demands of growing population and consumerism. We continue to fish well beyond the capacity of which Tangaroa is able to replenish, our modern lifestyles litter and pollute our waters, global warming and climate change are destroying our coral reefs, threatening our livelihoods and changing the chemistry of our ocean. We now have dead zones in our oceans, lifeless and bigger than many countries. We are at a crossroads in time – what we do with our oceans from here will determine our future, and that of the planet.

wcc-and-pos-photos-107-impHawaiian warriors perform symbolic traditional ritual to welcome Pacific Island leaders to their land.


The inaugural Pacific Ocean Summit held in Hawai`i on the 1st of September 2016, was convened by the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC), the State of Hawai`i and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in response to the threats facing the Pacific Ocean, and the need for a paradigm shift on how we act on our oceans – the scale of action, the kind of partnerships and necessary investments if we are to see a significant improvement by 2030. Held in conjunction with the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016, the Pacific Ocean Summit began with recognition of the leadership being shown by Pacific Island leaders through their actions and aspirations to mitigate climate change and move towards a more sustainable and healthy Pacific Ocean. The large ocean states that are the Pacific Island countries have lead the response to the threats facing the Pacific Ocean with hard work and innovative actions:

  • The largest commitments for marine managed areas come from the Pacific islands and will likely exceed 15 million square kilometres by 2020
  • The tuna fishery in the Pacific Island region has implemented innovative and successful management measures for this highly valuable natural resource.
  • Engagement of coastal communities with the management of their coastal fishery is seeing success and is now replicated around the world.
  • Regional and national marine management policies continue to evolve.

Despite this we continue to see a downward spiral in the overall state of our ocean and acknowledge the need for increased capacity, resources and innovative partnerships. The IUCN Congress in Hawai`i brought together over ten thousand leaders and global decision-makers from government, civil society, indigenous communities, corporations, and academia, with the goal of conserving the environment and harnessing nature’s power to solve global challenges. Held every four years and often referred to as the Olympics of conservation, the Congress consists of two parts:

  • The Forum: held over five days, it’s a hub of public debate and a market place of ideas and demonstrations of innovative, scalable solutions to the world’s most pressing conservation and sustainability challenges.
  • The Members’ Assembly: where IUCN’s Member organisations debate and collectively decide on environmental policy and actions. The Members also approve the IUCN Programme and elect the IUCN Council and President.


Pacific Island leaders come together to show solidarity and unity toward action environmental issues at the Moana Pasifikia Vaka Arrival ceremony.

Moana Pasifika Vaka Welcome Ceremony

Marking the beginning of the Pacific Ocean Summit, and also the World Conservation Congress, at the Moana Pasifika Vaka Arrival ceremony the leaders of the great ocean states of the Pacific Islands were welcomed on to Kahanamoku Beach at Waikiki by the traditional landowners of Hawai`i and by the Governor of Hawai`i. Following the arrival at dawn of the Hawai`ian Vaka, and a traditional Hawai`ian ceremony of welcome and permission from those on land to those arriving by sea, the Pacific Island leaders presented the families of Kahanamoku and Paoa a pohaku (stone) from their respective islands, a symbol of the connection between their land and the land of their hosts.

E hui ana n Moku… Islands Shall Be United…

John De Fries, Director, Department of Research and Development, County of Hawaii launched the Moana Pasifika Welcome Ceremony and provided an overview of the significance of the vaka ceremony in connecting the people of the land with their family in the Pacific. Speaking to the large crowd assembled, David Y Ige the Governor of Hawai`i welcomed his fellow Pacific leaders saying “to our ohana from around the Pacific, aloha.”

In reply, H.E. Tommy Remengesau Jr the President of Palau thanked his Hawai`ian hosts, and noted that “the ocean doesn’t divide us, it connects us, and today those words have a meaning.” Other leaders that spoke at the ceremony included H.E. Peter M. Christian the President of the Federated States of Micronesia, and Inger Andersen the Director General of IUCN. Nainoa Thompson, the President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society closed the ceremony with the following remarks.“What you are seeing here in the sands of Hawai`i is the change in conversation. No longer can the power of conservation just talk to itself, it has to marry with indigenous knowledge, with indigenous people. So the reason why it’s so important that the Pacific leaders are here, is because if you want to protect the earth, if you want to protect biodiversity, if you want to protect wildlife, if you want to kind of have some way to adapt to climate change, you got to protect the ocean, it’s prerequisite to all of those things. You can’t do it without protecting the oceans, and who better to do that than Pacific Islanders because they know. They know their ancestry, they know their genealogy, they know their history and tenure and they see change, they know something is terribly wrong and they have such an enormous set of responsibilities of protecting the earth by protecting the oceans around them.”


Symoblic Pohaku (stones) gifted by the gathered Pacific Islands leaders, brought from each of their respective nations. – Photo Credit: Kai Markell

Pacific Ocean Summit

The Pacific Ocean Summit was held on September 1st in the Coral Ballroom at the Hilton Hawai`ian Village, the Summit was convened by OPOC, the State of Hawai`i and IUCN in partnership with the the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Pacific Islands Institute and the Moana Pasifika Voyage. With the theme of “E ola ke kai, e ola kakou — As the ocean thrives, so do we”, the Summit was co-Chaired by H.E. Peter M. Christian the President of the Federated States of Micronesia, and David Y. Ige the Governor of Hawai`i. The Summit brought together over 250 participants from 23 countries around the Pacific Rim including Heads of State, Senators, Governors and Mayors, private sector and indigenous leaders who all pledged their support for action for a sustainable Pacific Ocean. “Our role in the protection of the ocean is no mean task. It’s a major contribution to the wellbeing of humanity. This is the Pacific challenge we face,” said Henry Puna, Prime Minister of Cook Island. “I am pleased that we, the Pacific states, have already answered this challenge. I am now looking at the rest of the world to join us.” Pacific leaders from Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia announced a range of commitments at the summit, including French Polynesia’s President Edouard.

Fritch’s commitment to officially listing the largest marine managed area in the world before 2020, and Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine’s initiative to develop a regional hub for sustainable shipping, and her call for countries around the planet to deliver on promises made in Paris. Aliki Gaualofa the Ulu O Tokelau, spoke eloquently of the Pacific Ocean as “the language of our people, it’s the language of the ocean, the Pacific Ocean is our teacher”, and highlighted the profile of Tokelau as a solar nation of the Pacific, having more than 90% of electricity provided by solar, and also its investments in wind energy to support the solar grids. David Ige, Governor of Hawai’i and co-chair of the Summit, committed Hawai’I to working with the Pacific Island Countries “It is truly remarkable how connected we all are and I thank the leaders of the Pacific for giving a voice to our Ocean. Climate Change is a challenge for the world, but our challenge today is getting people to realise that we must take care of our earth.” The Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni reiterated the Kingdom of Tonga’s commitment to achieving 30% marine protected areas and 20% terrestrial protected areas, and spoke of the importance and opportunities of conservation financing mechanisms.

wcc-and-pos-photos-165-impPresident of Marshal Islands, Hilda Heine, delivering her opening address at the Pacific Ocean Summit (POS).

Dr. Colin Tukuitonga, Director-General, Secretariat of the Pacific Community noted that “our region is the most fossil fuel dependent region in the world, importing around 1 billion dollars worth of fuel annually, a quarter of which is purely used to generate electricity and the rest on transport, most of which is on sea transport. Think of the possibility of what we can achieve by allocating and spending that billion dollars on renewable energy.” Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, noted that “the voice of the Pacific is strong” and offered the absolute partnership of UNEP to the Pacific Islands. Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe, the CEO of the Office of Hawai`ian Affairs, highlighted the absolute importance of the integral connection between indigenous people and the ocean in achieving conversation outcomes, and committed to hosting indigenous leaders to discuss a Pacific people’s network. The President of IUCN Zhang Xinsheng applauded the commitments and leadership of the Pacific Island leaders, identifying them as “leaders of the world’s Largest Ocean States”, and supported the call for the 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership to meet every three years until 2030.

He also pledged the ongoing support of IUCN to the Pacific Islands. Co-chair of the summit, the President of the Federated States of Micronesia, Peter M. Christian, acknowledged IUCN Oceania, the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and the Voyaging Societies for their great initiative in convening the summit, and reminded participants that the region’s collaborative efforts must “gel together into meaningful actions”. In his closing remarks, Hon. Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Fiji, also reinforced the need for the region to work together in partnership, and noted the pathway from the Paris Agreement to the Pacific Ocean Summit and on to the UN Ocean Conference in 2017 being hosted by Fiji and Sweden. “The Pacific Islands has today boldly shown what can be achieved when leaders at all levels come together to solve common problems,” said Senator J. Kalani English, Senate Majority Leader for the State of Hawai’i, “The call is now for countries across the globe to join this fight, and each to do its part to save their oceans.”

To conclude the Summit, a 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership tapa cloth was signed by the leaders and participants, providing a strong statement of support for a coalition of the willing on ocean action to enhance, amplify and promote the efforts of countries, states, provinces, cities, corporations, communities and other stakeholders from in and around the Pacific Rim. The tapa was presented to Nainoa Thompson, the President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, to add the 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership to the Mālama Honua (taking care of Island Earth) mission and worldwide voyage of the voyaging Canoe Hōkūleʻa. Nainoa then spoke passionately of the history, power and courage of traditional navigators, and highlighted the importance of the Pacific Islands identity, “when you lose your identity you lose your self- worth. Shame is powerful – and fear follows”. Recounting the challenging and inspirational story of Eddie Aikau, who died trying to save his fellow voyagers, he reminded the audience of the power of hope, and called on everyone involved to be courageous in their work to save the Pacific Ocean.

nainoa-speech-posLegendary Navigator & President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS), Nainoa Thompson, giving the closing address at the POS. – Photo Credit: PVS

The 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership

The Pacific Ocean Summit provided an opportunity to bring to life the call for new partnerships across the Pacific Ocean, and for combined action by the Pacific Ocean States and the Pacific Rim. In the words of Taholo Kami, the Regional Director of IUCN Oceania, “the Pacific islands are leading the way with hard work and innovative action; we have been punching well above our weight for many years. Sixty percent of the world’s economy is represented by countries on the Pacific Rim and they have a disproportionate impact on the ocean, and it is time for our Pacific Rim neighbours to become fully engaged in the fight to save the Pacific Ocean.” The calls to action before and at the Summit have manifested in the 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership, a coalition of the willing on ocean action for:

  • Reducing the threats to the ocean
  • Increasing ocean resilience
  • Combating climate change
  • Connecting Pacific Peoples
  • Financing mechanisms

The goal of the 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership is to promote, enhance and amplify the ocean actions and commitments being made by countries, states, provinces, cities, corporations, communities and other stakeholders from the Pacific Islands and around the Pacific Rim.


Hawaiian Senator, J. Kalani, presents the final 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership tapa cloth to seminar participants.

Where to from here

The signing of the 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership Tapa at thePacific Ocean Summit provided a strong statement of supportfor a coalition of the willing on ocean action, a coalition that is seeking a sustainable future for our ocean, for our people and for our planet. Following its successful introduction at the inaugural Pacific Ocean Summit in Hawai`i, the next steps and engagement touchpoints for the 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership include:

  • Development of member criteria based on commitments to Ocean action.
  • Ongoing calls for and approaches to new members from around the Pacific Rim.
  • A leaders retreat on Blue Ocean Thinking – Approaching Sustainability, in Fiji in 2017.
  • Promotion of the 2030 Partnership in 2017 at the inaugural Oceans Pavilion at the 57th International Art Biennale in Venice, the largest and longest running arts festival in the world.
  • Formal launch of the 2030 Partnership at the UN Oceans Conference in New York in June 2017.
  • Pacific Peoples Forum (PPF) – Aotearoa (New Zealand) 2018
  • APEC – Pacific Leaders & Oceans, Papua New Guinea 2018
  • Convening the next Pacific Ocean Summit in 2020 – Host to be confirmed


Hundreds of spectators gather on the Kahanamoku Beachfront to take part in the Moana Pasifica Vaka Arrival ceremony – Photo Credit: Kai Markell

To see more photos from these events please visit our Moana Pasifika Arrival Ceremony & Pacific Ocean Summit photo galleries: www.moanavoyage.org/photos.

Please click this link for a downloadable PDF copy of the above summary: Moana Pasifika Arrival Ceremony & Pacific Ocean Summit Executive Summary.

See the links below for more stoires about the Moana Pasikifa Vaka Arrival Ceremony and the Pacific Ocean Summit:

Voices of the Pacific | Polynesian Voyaging Society

Outcomes from Pacific Ocean Summit and IUCN World Conservation Congress | IUCN Oceania –

Moana Pasifika @ IUCN Conngress – Social Media Collation | IUCN Oceania

IUCN Congress Bulliten  – September 1 | IISD

Highlights for Thursday, 1 September 2016 (Photos)| IISD