My Fiji Shark Initiative partners and first pledges, (L-R) Ben Saqata, Marine Scientist/Biologist, Beqa Adventure Divers; Andrew Nelson, Defense Advisor, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Government of Australia; Natasha Marosi, Head of Conservation and My Fiji Shark Program Coordinator, Beqa Adventure Divers; Bakhodir Burkhanov, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director and Head of Pacific Regional Programme and Policy; Hailey Qaqa, Miss Fiji; Jessica Fong, Miss Hibiscus; Netani Rika, Islands Business; Christina Gale, Manager of Sustainable Tourism Development, SPTO (Photo: SPTO/Kotoyawa Tamani)


Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all!

I would like to acknowledge our friends and partners joining us today, including Commander Andrew Nelson from the Australian High Commission to Fiji, Christina Leala-Gale from the South Pacific Tourism Organization, our friends from Beqa Adventure Divers team, and of course, our Government counterparts from the Ministry of Fisheries.

It has been a fascinating collaborative effort leading up to today’s launch of the ‘My Fiji Shark’ initiative. Christina and the SPTO team, Mike Neuman and Natasha Marosi from Beqa Adventure Divers and our UNDP team have worked hard to make this launch a reality. I would like to thank the Australian High Commission and DFAT specifically for financial support and encouragement in conceiving this initiative.

This collaboration is focused on innovative resource mobilization with the private sector in Fiji. Businesses globally have a big role to play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, SDGs will not succeed without private sector engagement and contributions. This initiative is all the more important as it targets SDG financing from – and with – the private sector.

‘My Fiji Shark’ supports work towards achieving the SDG 14 on Life Below Water, specifically linked to marine ecotourism and involving an ‘Adopt a Shark’ campaign. It’s symbolic that our first SDG private sector financing model and cause-related marketing campaign are about oceans and marine species. The Pacific island region is the globe’s ‘blue continent’ and oceans are vital for the sustainable development of countries like Fiji.

Globally, SDG 14 is ambitious – and it needs to be. Oceans are of immense fundamental value as the Earth’s largest life support system, holding nearly 97% of our planet’s water, regulating the global climate, cycling vital nutrients, and producing more than half the oxygen for the atmosphere. Oceans also provide the basis for the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, including some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, and contribute an estimated US$ 3 to 6 trillion per annum to the global economy.

The health of the oceans is being challenged by environmental degradation. SDG 14 commits the international community to halt and reverse this trend through preservation and sustainable use of marine resources, with targets addressing pollution, overfishing, unfair subsidies, coastal habitat loss, and acidification.

As worrying as the state of global oceans may be, there are solutions and each of us can do our bit to help. Initiatives like ‘My Fiji Shark’ offer an innovative way forward, harnessing efforts and contributions of partners from private and public sectors as well as individuals. The proponents of this initiative will tell us how in a few minutes.

Meanwhile and without further ado, let me thank you once again for being part of this launch and the upcoming ‘My Fiji Shark’ campaign for the conservation and sustainable management of our oceans.

Vinaka vakalevu!

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