Mangroves Red Listing learnings help in draft policy

IOE Unit Head Ta’hirih Hokafonu at the meeting on Wednesday. Photo: Enviro News

Nuku’alofa – April 23, 2021: 11.20am (Enviro News): Findings from Red Listing of the Environment work done in the past 12 months have suggested the need for more work to be done to help manage and protect our local mangrove forests around the Kingdom.

The results of the exercise are also helpful in guiding the drafting of Mangroves Management Policy that is now being drawn up by the Department of Environment and all stakeholders.

Findings were presented at a RLE Workshop here at the department on Wednesday, April 21 by the Terrestrial team members who undertook the exercise in three sites around Tongatapu and a number of sites on Vava’u.

It was evident in the Popua, Sopu and Nukuhetulu sites that if nothing is done now local mangroves will vanish in 30 to 50 years time and areas identified will be inundated with sae water as a result of the ongoing sea level rise.

Continuing reclamation of land is a major challenge and that has caused damage a lot of mangroves.

Presentations on the RLE learnings from the Tongatapu sites that were monitored. Photo: Enviro News

The Red Listing was approved by the International Conservation Union of Nature (IUCN) and used to help confirm the status of our different eco-systems.

It was confirmed that continuing sea level rise is a big threat and areas along the identified sites are vulnerable to climate change as well.

The team also did the same exercise in Vava’u.

Recommendations were presented at the workshop on Wednesday.

Findings from the one week visit to Vava’u confirmed the need to take special actions by respective units of the Department as soon as possible to avoid any further contradictory allegations.

Unplanned road development in the Eastern District of Vava’u, Holeva-Koloa and Tuanekivale. Undulating elevation with rugged terrains posed threats to these new roads (Ref. EIA Act 2003). The new quarry on the seaward, north of Koloa surely will have impact on the inshore fishing resources thus affect the livelihoods of these coastal communities.

Terrestrial Team head Hoifua Aholahi sharing learnings from the Vava’u RLE exercise. Photo: Enviro News

The Environment Department is looking at integrating a conservation approach from the terrestrial side to matched the current SMAs on the marine areas of Vava’u, something that is being considered in the draft management policy.

Integration of eradication of invasive weeds on coastal ecosystems to the current Department’s program of actions has also been recommended. 

This should also look at combining work with marine monitoring team in monitoring all land based activities to minimise any damages to the coastal ecosystems in the outer islands of Tonga.

Islands and Oceans Ecosystems Unit head Ta’hirih Hokafonu, who facilitated the workshop for the DoE Tongatapu and Vava’u plus VEPA Vava’u staff, said the learnings is been used to help in the drafting of the Mangroves Management Policy.

The RLE exercise is being proposed to be replicated in other eco-systems around Tonga, including the Hihifo Coastal Mangroves area, Toloa Rainforest, Eua Rainforest and National Park and the Mount Talau Rainforest.

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