Special Event Commemorating World Oceans Day 2017

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SIX OFFICIAL 08-Jun-2017 03:41:45
The Ocean Conference dedicated its penultimate day to commemorating World Oceans Day, with speakers in the General Assembly Hall emphasizing the need for immediate collective action to turn the tide on marine degradation and place oceans at the centre of sustainable development for future generations.
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Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, called World Oceans Day a time not only to celebrate the majesty of the sea, its beauty and its bounty, but also commit to its conservation. Oceans were the preserve of no man or country, he said. Rather, they belonged to all to conserve and sustainably manage for generations to come.

“Now we must engage and now we must act,” said Isabella Lövin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of Sweden, and co-President of the Conference, adding that people could no longer plead ignorance about the damage that had been wrought on the world’s oceans.

The half-day event featured a number of presentations that brought together oceanographers, astronauts, photographers, entrepreneurs and youth representatives of coastal communities, among others.

Fabien Cousteau, founder of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center and grandson of French ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, said oceans were Earth’s only life-support system — one that must be treated as an invaluable bank account. The problems of pollution, over-consumption of natural resources and climate change could be overcome through such efforts as education, the creation of marine protected areas and renewable energy use, he said, inviting participants to strike the word “impossible” from the dictionary and ensure that children were better stewards of the environment.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of companies, said the ocean covered more than 70 per cent of Earth’s surface and held 97 per cent of its water, yet it was the least known, the most biologically diverse and the most undervalued of all ecosystems. “Our job is clear: to unite and revive it,” he said, urging those negotiating a binding treaty on high-seas biodiversity to be bold, to give that instrument teeth and to make it a game-changer on par with the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In the afternoon, a partnership dialogue addressed the topic of increasing scientific knowledge, developing research capacity and the transfer of marine technology in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially its Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

Thorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture of Iceland and co-Chair of the discussion, said sustainable development targets would not be met without acquiring and sharing the necessary scientific information. “Understanding the vast oceans can be compared with sailing towards the horizon — it never seems to get closer until you see the land,” she said, adding that sustainable development must begin at the local level and that all policies should be firmly based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Héctor Soldi, Vice-Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture of Peru, the other co-Chair, said the dialogue was not only an opportunity to hear about national experiences, but also to spark new partnerships, commitments and other concrete proposals. Peru had a strong research institute that had done much work in data collection. However, the data “are never enough”, he said, noting that the Government had also established a partnership in data collection with private fishing fleets, whose data were especially useful.
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