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THE PACIFIC

The Pacific Ocean (180 million square kilometers) comprises half of the earth's sea surface. The 22 Pacific Islands Countries and dependent Territories (PICTs) have exclusive rights to the exploitation of approximately 30 million square kilometers of sea (Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ). Conversely, the islands' land mass encompasses just over half a million square kilometers.

The Pacific region is home to the most extensive coral reef system and the highest marine diversity in the world, particularly the western Coral Triangle. The area is also characterized by high endemism and biological diversity in terrestrial species. Nevertheless, the area's terrestrial and marine biodiversity is still poorly inventoried and scientifically understood.

Culturally, the region is extremely diverse with over one thousand ethnic groups and languages, concentrated in the Western Pacific. The vast majority of land and coastal areas in PICTs remains under customary governance with traditional rights of use and access to land and coastal waters.

The growth of marine gene patents is a recent phenomenon in the Pacific - over 95% of existing claims have been filed after 2000. Nonetheless, in 2004, the global market for marine biotechnology was estimated at over USD 2.4 billion. Most of the marine genetic resources are derived from organisms sampled in territorial waters. Among chemical compounds produced by marine organisms are important cancer- and HIV-fighting agents. Some source organisms may be shared by several different EEZs and may disperse across international waters during their life cycles.

Processes for developing national regulatory ABS frameworks have been initiated in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Palau, Samoa and Vanuatu. As of July 2013, FSM, Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu have ratified and acceded to the Nagoya Protocol on ABS.

The ABS Initiative is collaborating with regional organizations, such as the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), to support PICTs to incorporate existing ABS processes of the above-mentioned countries into their own policy frameworks.

 

 


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