Countries and groups commit to halt ocean degradation

This was the message from United Nations Secretary General António Guterres at the opening of the first global Ocean Conference in NY.

"We will follow-up with diligence on the commitments made here at The Ocean Conference; all along, holding ourselves responsible to bequeath a conserved and sustainably managed Ocean to the stewards of the future", said President Thomson.

"It symbolizes the deep regard for communal ties and respect for the value of working together to achieve common goals or mutual benefit".

According to the United Nations secretary-general, there are more than 270 basins in the world at global borders, a panorama that increases the need for cooperation.

Bolivia's Evo Morales took accusations a step further by telling the conference attendees that the government of the United States, one of the world's "main polluters", chose to leave the Paris agreement, "denying science, turning your backs on multilateralism and attempting to deny a future to upcoming generations".

Every year, more than 8 million tons of plastic washes into the oceans, costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems and killing an estimated one million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals and untold numbers of fish. In his opening address, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for protection of the oceans "to avoid long-term global catastrophe".

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"The cooperation between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan and the signing of the Declaration of Principles by the leaders of the three countries is also another manifestation of regional cooperation that needs to be enhanced further", he said.

Guterres said one of the main challenges is to end "the artificial dichotomy" between jobs and healthy oceans: "The conservation and sustainable use of marine resources are two sides of the same coin". And, he said, the increasing human-caused carbon emissions tied to climate change are causing rising sea levels by warning the oceans and harming marine life by making the seas more acidic with less oxygen.

The UN Ocean Conference will be held from tomorrow (June 5) until June 9, 2017. The plight of SIDS was well sketched by Micronesia's President Peter Christian who expressed the fears of the Pacific islanders that the ocean was left to deal the insurmountable task of healing itself after being used as "a dumping ground for industrial waste" and for absorbing other forms of pollution.

"From our deliberations in plenary, from the partnership dialogues and from the multitude of interactions of this conference, we will draw up the solutions to the woes we have imposed on the Ocean".

"In most probability this conference represents the best opportunity we will ever have to reverse the cycle of decline that human activity has brought upon the Ocean", he said.

  • Regina Walsh