Oceans Conference making a splash

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By 2050 there will be more plastic floating in our oceans than fish swimming in it, if the world does not start to address this global problem.

The United Nations held the game-changing Ocean Conference this week in New York to raise awareness of the problems the sea faces.

President of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson says everyone needs to support the message behind this conference.

“I’m talking about global consciousness to a point that all human beings have to support SDG 14, or basically say goodbye to the life in the ocean –we are at that stage.”

Oceans Conference spokesperson Damian Cardona says since the ocean is a global problem, it requires a global solution.

“If one country decides to do something, but the country next door does not, the ocean will be polluted because the ocean has no borders.”

The milestone conference, dedicating an entire week to addressing the first of 17 UN Sustainability Development Goals, proposed tangible solutions and actions to this issue.

The United Nations were joined by NGOS, ocean advocates, Prime Ministers and Presidents, who collectively pledged to more than 1300 voluntary commitments towards these solutions.

The Global Head of Sea Change, Ingrid Giskes, says some countries are really nurturing our oceans, including some provinces in the Solomon Islands, who have already banned plastic bags.

“If developing countries can take such action, we can all try and do our best in our daily lives.”

Ms Giskes, who attended the conference, says action is important because the ocean’s health affects things we do not even think of.

“Our oceans are the lifeblood of the planet, they determine everything we do, from the oxygen we breathe, to the food we eat.”

Issues such as marine pollution and over-fishing are globally shared responsibilities.

Ms Giskes says Australia has great strategic plans regarding marine litter, especially with the Australian Government’s proposals outlined in the draft of their ‘threat abatement plan’ released in April.

“Generally, the national plan on marine litter for Australia is quite strong, it’s one of the most ambitious plans I’ve seen in countries.”

Some species of fish are in danger of disappearing, with no limit of fishing capacities in open seas, despite some countries taking steps to control this in seas within their borders says Mr Cardona.

The 2020 Tuna Traceability Declaration launched on June 5th addresses the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated fish, particularly tuna, calling for transparency, traceability and regulations in the industry by 2020.

President Thomson says the current issue costs 24 billion dollars, which is “a direct theft from mostly developing countries”.

Although it only amounts for 10% of marine litter, abandoned and lost fishing gear is the deadliest responsible for an estimated 10% decline in fish stocks globally.

Head of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative Campaign, Ms Giskes, says more than 640,000 tonnes of this fishing gear ends up in our oceans every year.

Ghost Net

Ghost Nets are catching sea animals like this turtle entangled.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

She says she is confident the initiative to clean up and prevent fishing gear from our oceans will receive more than 10 countries pledging their support by the end of the conference.

Steps to cleaning up the ocean can be as simple as purchasing sustainable seafood, avoiding plastic altogether and, if you are a recreational fisherman, clean up lines and hooks says Ms Giskes.

Mr Cardona says the conference will have several follow ups, including a meeting in December dedicated to putting the issues raised at this global conference into concrete legislations.

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