It’s Thursday, May 9, and Pacific Islanders have a solution to our massive extinction problem.

Adapted from an opinion piece that ran on Fix.

Another United Nations global scientific assessment recently delivered some bad news: As many as 1 million species are threatened with extinction in the coming decades. But all is not lost! The report identified several pathways for change, including the need to expand protected areas, both on land and in the ocean.

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How do we go about doing that? Luckily, we have an example to follow — one that is gaining momentum. For generations, many Pacific Island communities have set aside areas where fishing is forbidden, resulting in more fish, bigger fish, and greater biodiversity. It’s considered the world’s oldest form of fisheries management.

In total, more than a dozen Pacific countries and territories have committed to designating and implementing ocean sanctuaries that restrict all commercial fishing. These actions bolster marine biodiversity, improve neighboring fisheries, and help ocean flora and fauna better withstand the consequences of the changing climate and overfishing.

At the same time, ambassadors from Palau, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Rapa Nui have formed a group committed to protecting the unique identity of the Pacific and its islands. The Island Voice ambassadors are working together to link traditional values with modern environmental decision-making.

It’s a start, but if we are going to save the rich ecological abundance of the Pacific for future generations, we will have to think even bigger, working toward protecting 30 percent of the Pacific.

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Carlotta Leon Guerrero (Native of Guam and executive director of the Guam-based Ayuda Foundation)

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