First UN Ocean Conference signals global goal out of reach without major new action
New York, 9 June 2017 – On the concluding day of the first ever United Nations Ocean Conference, WWF calls for unprecedented action to achieve the agreed Ocean sustainable development goal. This comes as member states prepare to endorse a call for action that acknowledges the serious threats to the ocean from overexploitation and climate change, and the need for much greater ambition.
John Tanzer, Oceans Leader for WWF International, said: “This historic ocean conference has undoubtedly been the moment the ocean arrived on the main agenda for decision makers from all sectors but the momentum must build from here.”
“A clear message from the conference is that the ambition, scale of impact and reserves of political will required to tackle the urgent, growing threats to the ocean need to be far higher, or the world will fall a long way short of its agreed global goals.”
“Notable at this meeting was the clear recognition of how serious the threats are to the ocean and coasts, from widespread habitat destruction and ecosystem degradation, to overfishing and pollution. Overheated, rising and acidifying seas are already wreaking serious harm, from the tropics to the poles. The discussion was less about debating the scale of the threats than about planning and committing on how to tackle them,” added Tanzer.
“While there has been steady progress in expanding levels of protection of the ocean and in tackling overfishing, as two of the key priorities for global action, it is clearly not nearly enough. It’s especially critical for national governments to step up and drive the scaled-up action required. By turning the tide today, we can secure food supplies, livelihoods, sustainable economic opportunities and enhanced wellbeing for hundreds of millions of people.”
WWF has identified a list of priorities for governments, and all sectors, that it believes will help the world turn around the accelerating decay of ocean systems:
- Protect critical habitats for fisheries, local tourism assets, and for coastal protection to support local communities through effective spatial management measures, with a goal to conserve at least 30 per cent of mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass beds and all key ecosystems.
- Urgently reduce carbon emissions to reduce the assault from climate change on coral reefs, mangroves, the Arctic and Antarctica, and other vulnerable ecosystems.
- Phase out destructive fishing methods, including bottom trawls in vulnerable areas, and ensure bycatch is reduced significantly, and drive real sustainability in fishing, including in the small-scale sector, which warrants far more attention.
- Adopt an effective global agreement to phase out harmful fisheries subsidies.
- Fast-track the negotiations of a legally-binding high seas biodiversity agreement to enable integrated ocean management in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
- Adopt and implement sound principles and guidelines for public and private investments in the sustainable blue economy.
- Reduce the production and use of plastics and micro-plastics, and apply recycling and waste management.
In addition, leaders must support and promote gender equality especially recognizing the role of women and youth, and authentically empower communities – particularly the least developed, and large ocean states, and indigenous peoples – and those most vulnerable to the decline in ocean health. This is essential to protect the sustainable blue economy and achieve sustainable development for all.
“The candour and eagerness to get on with the job we have witnessed in New York has been energizing and a reason for optimism, but we’re also running out of time. We need to hold ourselves and each other accountable to our planet and the aspirations and needs of the billions of people represented at this conference, and ensure we come back to future meetings with clear signs of progress,” said Tanzer.