APIA - Samoa is beginning to let some of its environmental commitments slide, as a couple of recent developments look to threaten the island's ecosystem.

Sixteen years ago, Samoa ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

With the signature was a promise by the small island nation to adhere to the three aims of the convention: first, the conservation of biological diversity; second, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity; and third, the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.

With 80 per cent of the population still directly dependent on the land and marine environments for food, income and general sustenance, biodiversity plays a vital and central role in Samoa's social and economic development, according to Samoa's CBD Report.

Samoa quickly adhered to the terms of the convention in paper, with its protected area network growing rapidly from 1999 to 2006, but this eased off in the last few years.

Protected areas of national parks, reserves and community based conservation areas now protect an estimated 5 per cent of the total land area.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of endangered species monitors 15 Samoan endemic and native species. Of the eight land bird species listed, one is critically endangered and possibly extinct - the Gallinula pacifica. Two others are endangered and the remaining five are vulnerable.

Samoas further commitment to CBD saw the declaration of Samoa's Exclusive Economic Zone as a sanctuary for whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks in 2002. As part of the CBD Samoa committed a marine protected area (MPA) network which now stands at 12,011,437 hectares.

This network includes the Palolo Marine reserve near the town of Apia, the Aleipata MPA and the Safata MPA.

Although Samoa has adhered to the Convention in a large part, some basic rules are being overlooked.

For example, two years ago the Government of Samoa decided to build a wharf in the middle of the Aleipata Marine Protected Area.

Samoas 4th National Report clearly noted that the construction of the marine slipway at Aleipata for boat repairs is a cause for concern in respect of the effect of pollution and waste-related impacts on the MPA.

The Aleipata Islands is not just important to Samoa, it also has global significance according to the CBD as it is habitat to several endemic birds. These, along with marine species, will be threatened as a result of the slipway.

In addition to that, the Aopo-Letui-Sasina Coastal Forest, also classified as Grade 1 in global significance, is also under threat due to a planned hotel development on the site.

According to President of the O Le Siosiomaga Society in Samoa, Samoa's CBD report shows some anomalies.

"These can also be attributed to the pressure made by the CBD process to have countries serve a global agenda and fail to sincerely address the real needs of our indigenous peoples and local communities in the countries."

He says that there needs to be changes if Samoa's commitment is to be taken seriously.

"There needs to be a fundamental shift in the sincerity of the development agenda to genuinely address conservation of natural resources and biodiversity as a basis of the livelihoods of small islands populations and their rich biodiversity resources that are being threatened by disasters such as climate change, tsunamis, volcanoes and cyclones."

- Samoa Observer