PS Waterways and Environment
Respective Directors for Environment and Waterways
Dr. Mark O'Brien – Regional Programme Coordinator, Birdlife International
Mrs. Nunia Thomas Moko - Director Nature Fiji-Mareqeti Viti
Our Partner NGO representatives
Media Personnel
Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good afternoon to you all. It’s a pleasure to be here today to join you all in commemorating World Migratory Bird Day, 2020.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in more than 100 countries around the world, Governments and their NGO partners organize events to commemorate the World Migratory Bird Day on May 9th each year, a day dedicated to raising awareness of migratory birds and the need for international cooperation to conserve them.
This year we celebrate this important day, by embracing the theme “Birds connect our World” –a well-thought theme that highlights the fact and provides an opportunity to:

Better recognize and understand the unique behaviors of migratory bird species;

Highlight the importance of conserving, protecting, and restoring the ecological connectivity and integrity of ecosystems that are essential for the survival and well-being of migratory birds, as they move across continents.
Address our behavioral needs, ensuring the protection of their habitats and migratory pathways for the survival of these birds.   
Migratory birds have no limits to boundaries – they have the whole world as their oyster. They travel thousands of miles in the quest to fulfill their destinies accorded to them, in doing-so they connect and inter-relate with national jurisdictions, scientists, communities, policies, conservation initiatives – fostering partnership, networking, and collaboration – for concerted efforts towards conserving migratory birds and raising awareness and visibility on the ground.
Ladies and Gentlemen, It is indeed, a destiny so intertwined with ours that we cannot afford to lose these travelers, we need to protect them, protecting them are protecting ourselves,  and we protect them by making sure our lakes, waterways, wetlands, foreshores, and forests are flourishing.
Just a week ago, a bird landed in China completing approximately 8,000 km of the journey from Kenya. The bird departed Kenya on April 29, crossed the Arabian Sea, the Indian Sub-Continent, and the mighty Himalayas and landed in China on May 4th, it is a feat that is only achieved by these birds.  
Ladies and gentlemen, we are blessed to have a diverse species of birds in Fiji. They have an important place in our overall environment and contribute to the enhancement of our livelihood in a number of ways.
Agricultural Production and food security
Birds have an important role in enhancing agricultural growth and production.
Firstly, they are a natural means of pest control. Various studies note that close to 400 million tons of insects are consumed by birds in a year. In an era when we wish to move away from the usage of chemicals to control pests, we are blessed to have birds as a biological pest control tool, a good example being the Myna bird, introduced in the late 1800s to control insects amongst the sugarcane farms in Fiji.
Furthermore, birds have for long contributed to the spreading of seeds over the forest lands thus enhancing the food security of households who derive food from these forest lands. In Fiji, several food plant species are available in the wild such as chilies, pawpaw, bitter gourd, curry leaves, passion fruit, and berries, the existence of which is attributed to birds.
Birds also assist in the pollination of crops, flowers, and medicinal plants. Thus contributing directly to the expansion of agricultural produce.
Environment and Biodiversity
Ladies and gentlemen, birds also play an important role in cleaning the environment and enhancing biodiversity. A lot of the species found in the wild forest are spread by birds. Humans derive numerous benefits from wild forests including the extraction of non-timber forest products such as medicinal plants and fuelwood. These birds, connect to all of these habitats, and they connect us and the places where we live to people and places around the globe. As such if we are to ensure better chances of survival of these birds, we all need to conserve the ecosystems that support their movement.
Global Concern
Ladies and gentlemen, the global decline in bird species is of great concern and can be attributed to several reasons. Firstly, due to habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity. The Amazon fires were one of the worst fires in terms of destruction caused to nature and wildlife. During the dry season, fires do happen naturally. However, the last fire was caused by farmers and loggers clearing land for crops and grazing or timber. A CNN report noted that around 2.3 m animals died from just 7.7% of the burnt area of the Amazon. A WWF report stated that approximately 1.25 billion animals perished during last year’s Australia bush fires.
This destruction of our wildlife raises serious concerns amongst the global community on where we are heading if the status quo concerning our conduct remains.
The global communities in recognizing these concerns have set international frameworks to ensure species populations do not decline at a rate at which they are threatened with extinction.  Frameworks such as the Convention on Migratory Species, Convention on Biological Diversity, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance - directly and indirectly, affect the global migratory species population.  Such frameworks come with opportunities for small island developing countries like Fiji to put in place effective policies, to join in the global efforts in saving these species and be guided by best practices and success stories from around the globe. 
Ladies and gentlemen, it is good to have these frameworks and global conventions in place, the concern remains on the successful implementation of these frameworks, it is something that most of the countries have struggled with. It is evident, that development partners and donor agencies also spend too many resources and funding on soft solutions - policies, consultancies and writing report with very little work on the ground, we need to change this and move away from the “tick the box” mentality to more hard investments in increasing conservation areas, habitat restorations amongst others. We need to move away from fancy “talkfests” (meetings, conferences) with no strategy to follow on the implementation of resolutions.
Year in, year out, we come up with the same resolutions but very little on the ground implementation. These resolutions do no good to a bird flying over the mighty Himalayas at 6,800 meters from Central Europe through Western China for the Indian Sub-Continent unless it is put into practice. The loud honking call of these birds would perhaps be the reminder that we have done enough…a honking call that verifies we have done our part.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) which identifies strategic thematic areas on the importance of conserving some of Fiji’s species of conservation and national significance, and the need to protect important bird areas in Fiji.  The NBSAP recognizes inland waters and inshore fisheries as important wetland eco-systems that support some of our migratory species such as whales, turtles, sharks, and birds.  Provided with an action plan framework, the NBSAP provides an important platform for collaboration on actions on the ground ensuring accountability and reporting through the established mandated committees and working groups.
Furthermore, the Environment Management Act 2005 ensures that developments in wetland areas are scrutinized and analyzed thoroughly through the Environment Impact Assessment processes before it is approved to ensure environmental sustainability and impacts of biodiversity are minimized.  The Endangered and Protected Species Act aims to regulate the trade in endangered and vulnerable species of global significance.  The Act also regulates species indigenous to the Fiji Islands, most of which are endemic.  More than 61 bird and seabird species are also regulated under the Act.  I am told that regulated species are listed based on science and research and I acknowledge the efforts of our scientific and academic communities both in government and NGOs for your continuous support to this process.
Ladies and gentlemen, Our Ministry in collaboration with key NGOs in particular Birdlife International and Nature Fiji-Mareqeti Viti, will launch a National Migratory Bird Count Campaign in October to step up our public and community awareness on the importance of wetlands and work towards nominating 2 or more wetland sites as an obligation under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
I implore all parties, our Ministry, NGOs, development partners, and donor agencies to work closely and implement the resolutions and strategies on the ground to protect our wildlife, our birds, and nature before we lose it.
For Fiji to be effective in conservation, we need to fully understand and identify our migratory species, their migratory pathways, and their habitats for protection.   We need to enforce our laws, monitor development impacts on our biodiversity, undertake continuous field assessments, we need to build our data for policy interventions.
We cannot do this alone.  We need scientists, conservationists, communities, and governments to work together.  
Let’s use this day to renew our efforts and commitments for nature – and continue to market Fiji as a safe and peaceful migratory destination for birds and other migratory species.
We have come together to fight COVID-19 as a species, so should we come together to protect these blessings that come to our homes.
“Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror-like a beautiful bird that gazes at itself in the water and self-examine.” Have we done enough? How can we do more?
God Bless Fiji and our bird population!