It was an inspiring week at the United Nations Ocean Conference, the first ever United Nations General Assembly Conference devoted entirely to the marine environment.
We applaud the United Nations for mobilizing global action to rescue our world’s ocean. This doesn’t take a village – this will take the world.
As a roadmap toward achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 related to the ocean, the Call for Action, adopted today at the United Nations, is a positive step toward ensuring a healthy future for the ocean, its biodiversity, and for humanity. But it is only one step in a long journey—that we must all travel together. While it could go further, if fully implemented, it will go a long way toward securing a sustainable future for the ocean and its phenomenal species.
Billions of people derive their livelihoods and food security from the ocean and marine resources, making its legal, equitable, and sustainable use imperative to our very future on this planet.
This goes hand-in-hand with the critical need to conserve the biodiversity of the ocean, including sharks, rays, whales, corals and other threatened and endangered wildlife, such that the conservation of these species and functioning marine ecosystems is essential both in its own right, and for the benefit of the well-being, sustainable development, and cultural expression of people across the globe.
However, today the ocean and its wildlife are under severe threat from harmful human impacts, such as overfishing, illegal fishing and illegal trade, pollution from noise, plastics, fertilizer runoff and other pollutants, and most significantly, impacts from global climate change.
There are many ways to address these multitude of threats. I am proud that WCS has submitted 4 and partnered on 24 commitments with other organizations and governments. It is inspiring that governments and civil society have made more than 1328 commitments to ensuring the viability of our oceans. And that number continues to grow.
In particular, the establishment and management of science-based marine protected areas are among the most successful tools we have for maintaining the long-term health and viability of the ocean. WCS is proud to have a part in launching a new network of marine protected areas, announced this week, in the waters off of Gabon, as well as in the waters of Fiji. These measures will help protect biological treasures while ensuring sustainable management for fisheries, tourism and other development activities. At WC,S we are proud of our MPA Fund created last year with the assistance of the Waitt Foundation and the blue moon fund for a combined $15 million commitment. The fund seeks to create 3.7 million square kilometers of new MPAs, which will help 19 countries achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal target of protecting 10% of their marine and coastal waters by 2020. Earlier this week, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation added a $1 million grant toward this fund.
Throughout human history, our species has seen the ocean as endless—we looked out across the horizon at a sea of plenty, thinking it could never be exhausted or ruined. But today, our species has a choice: either to continue on the path of indifference and greed and destroying the very source of life, or to heed this Call-for-Action and take the necessary steps for a better future for the ocean and its precious biodiversity.
We call on all governments and partners to use this Call for Action as a major catalyst in creating real change. When the world reconvenes at a future UN Ocean Conference, let us look back on today as the time humanity turned the tide, to full implementation of the commitments made here today. As inhabitants of this blue planet, we have no other choice.
(For an overview of WCS’s work over the past 120 years on marine conservation click here )