11 January 2017
In Wallis, Tara was fortunate to meet with Dr. Meyer who is conducting the first biodiversity study on Wallis and Futuna, and Atolotu Malau, manager of Environmental Services. Two fascinating encounters that showed us how committed this small island nation is to fostering biodiversity and properly managing waste to preserve its resources for the future.
Director of Research at the French Polynesian department of Research, Dr. Jean-Yves Meyer turned out to be the ideal seat partner on the flight from Fiji to Wallis. When asked what issue is more pressing to Wallisians: combating climate change or preserving biodiversity, Jean-Yves responded, “If we don’t stop the direct and immediate threats to biodiversity, even if we mitigate the effects of climate change, there will be nothing left to protect in several decades“. Wallis and Futuna are located about two-thirds of the way between Hawaii and New Zealand. Wallis, a small Pacific volcanic island with a lush tropical backdrop of low-lying hills and crystal-clear water, is fringed with coral reefs.
Atoloto Malau Manager of Environmental Services in Wallis standing by a vista from Mont Lulu Fakahega © Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions
On December 27th, we met with Atoloto Malau. What are the top 3 challenges facing Wallis’s future? He responded: “Resource management, waste management, and global warming. We are trying to deal with all of it now”. In the past few years, a new challenge has arisen: increased trash from imported goods – plastic, aluminum, glass, and hazardous waste. Last November for the first time waste was shipped off the island, legislation was passed requiring reusable bags in the local shops and a plastic/aluminum/glass buyback program was launched.
Nukuhifila, one of the many uninhabited islands just off of Wallice that has experienced coastal erosion © Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions
Atoloto noted that “the biggest challenges facing the marine environment – pollution, coral bleaching and depletion of fish stock – are interdependent.” According to the Wallis environmental department, coral bleaching has been pronounced in recent years and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported a 10-centimeter rise in sea level here in the past 20 years. Currently in the midst of implementing a global strategy for sustainable development, Wallisians are trusting that, even in the face of climate change, cleaning up their environment and preserving land and ocean ecosystems are key elements to keep this island thriving for generations to come.
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