Vanuatu National Ocean Policy

The Ocean is a natural and dynamic bridge that connects continents to continents and oceanic islands to islands. It is also a bridge between the living and the dead and between people and the marine resources upon which they rely. It is the bridge of life. 

Our ancestors used the sea as a passageway to move from their place of origin to where we are today. From their voyage in the sea they learned and believed that there exists a God of the sun, a God of the wind and a God of the Sea – our God. When they arrived safely to our shores they gave thanks and revered the sea as a sacred place. They built their livelihoods around it and finally established a culture of the ocean. A culture that protects and respects the God of the ocean.

In this Modern age, people have access to advanced technology and use it to explore and exploit the ocean and its resources more and more effectively and efficiently. The population of the modern age is also growing and the global and local demand to further explore and exploit the ocean resources is very high. 

For the sake of humanity and all living things on land and in the sea, each atoll island, oceanic island and continent must play its part to ensure that our ocean bridge continues to function and the ocean continues to sustain life. Vanuatu is an ocean state and is geared to play its part in managing the ocean
for our people and contributing also to the planet’s future. 

Vanuatu’s maritime jurisdiction comprises 98% of the nation and includes living and non-living marine resources that contribute significantly to the country’s economy, that are fundamental to the wellbeing of its citizens and are an integral part of our. While the economic potential of many of the resources in this area remains un-assessed and under-utilized, some are being overexploited or
damaged and there is an urgent need to resolve Vanuatu’s territorial disputes and maritime boundaries. 

Vanuatu stands to protect and enhance the contribution made by its marine environment to its national development. The best approach was to support traditional marine resource management and coordinate management across different sectors and resources and integrate environmental management directly with economic development, fiscal policy and social goals. This latter was a challenge, because such an approach requires a change in perspective towards valuing the environment as a fundamental input to economic development – and one that must be protected. The building of our ocean’s resilience increases its ability to withstand negative impacts arising from, for example, climate change or natural disasters. However, an integrated approach means a change in how we view, manage, govern and use the marine environment.

Fundamental changes in the way our marine space is managed and regulated were required at the Central Government, Provincial Governments and the community level. Core to such a change is the need to transition to a more integrated governance approach that requires all uses, users and values to be considered and that empowers traditional leaders and traditional marine resource managers.

Review of existing legislations and policies has informed development of an effective common National Ocean Policy and, finally, a legislative basis for implementing the same. This Ocean Policy aims to ensure that management of our marine environment and its resources will achieve the desired objectives, programs and measures across all the agencies and for all people in Vanuatu that have a role in using and managing the marine environment. The Ocean policy embeds the culture of the ocean into ocean management and merges across different uses, users and ocean managers.

We have harmonized and aim for more harmonization in the work and pursuits of the various agencies and people who manage and use the marine waters around our islands including working with traditional marine resource managers and people involved in shipping, environment management, mining, fishing and the tourism industry (e.g. hoteliers, dive operators, fishers and boat operators).

Mechanisms whereby to achieve these aspirations are set out in this Ocean Policy. The mechanisms are framed around the Nakamal (The Nakamal is an institution for traditional custom governing systems for Vanuatu):
• the foundation is an ecosystem-based approach to management as envisaged and implemented by our forefathers using traditional marine resource management systems;
• upon the foundation are three pillars: the multi-dimensional value of our ocean; the integration across uses, across boundaries, across sectors, across governance structures and our resilient ocean culture;
• the beam across the Nakamal is the overarching institutional arrangements; and
• the thatched roof is emblematic of the sectoral and cross-sectoral policy actions that will protect the Nakamal.

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