By Claire Ireland, Senior Environment Specialist, AusAID
On World Oceans Day, Australians can be proud of the crucial work being done with our tax dollars to protect the world’s oceans – and to support the people who depend so heavily on them. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Their sustainable management is critical to all of us – and particularly our neighbours in the Pacific. Coastal and marine resources in the Pacific supply more than 80 per cent of food supplies and provide more than 70 per cent of income for poor families.
There is no doubt that the health of the world’s oceans is under threat. Habitat destruction and overfishing mean many of the world’s marine ecosystems are under severe stress. More than 85 per cent of global fisheries are either fully or over-exploited and 75 per cent of the world’s coral reefs are threatened by local and global pressures, including sea water acidification which prevents corals, shellfish and other organisms from growing – affecting food sources for larger fish.
The Coral Triangle Initiative is supporting biodiversity conservation, sustainable development and poverty reduction. Photo: AusAID
Through our aid program, Australia is already working to address the degradation of the world’s oceans and the impact this has on the livelihoods of poor coastal communities. Through the Coral Triangle Initiative, Australia has the potential to improve the health and livelihoods of 240 million people in the region who rely on the biodiversity and ecosystems of the Coral Triangle. Covering only 1.6 per cent of the world’s oceans, the Coral Triangle is a large marine ecosystem in the Asia Pacific region. It contains 76 per cent of all known coral species, 37 per cent of all coral reef fish, the greatest extent of mangrove forests in the world, and spawning areas for tuna and other globally-significant commercial fish species.
They are areas where we have the capacity, deep understanding and track record to deliver results. The Government of Vietnam has repeatedly identified these areas as priorities for development, as it aims to grow into a higher income industrial economy and reduce poverty rates to a single digit level within the next decade.
Opening ceremony of the My Thuan Bridge, the first across the Mekong River. This bridge now carries more than five million vehicles per year. Photo: AusAID
This year alone there are almost 250 Vietnamese academics, government officials and business leaders studying at our world-class universities thanks to Australian Government scholarships.
As AusAID’s Minister-Counsellor for Mekong and Regional programs, I have been fortunate to meet some of these and many more previous recipients of Australian scholarships. To date there have been more than 3,000 alumni, stretching over 35 years, who have been invited to study in Australia as the result of the scholarships program.
Through the many conversations I have had with graduates of the program, I’ve learned of the great appreciation alumni have not only for their education, but also for the experience – both of which they share in equal measure. AusAID makes this investment in Vietnam’s human resources because it is a priority area for development, which has also been agreed on by the Governments of Vietnam and Australia.