At first UN Ocean Conference, island nations plead for help

At first UN Ocean Conference, island nations plead for help

The Ocean March- a parade of boats, was hosted by the office of the Mayor of New York City as a mark of solidarity with the drive to protect the oceans, a day before the historic Ocean Conference (June 5-9) at the United Nations in New York, to renew momentum towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, "Life Below Water'".

United Nations member-states are working on a "call to action" from governments, civil society and businesses that commit to taking steps to clean up the oceans and work preserve what is arguably the Earth's most important resource.

The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has warned that a range of factors are damaging the world's oceans.

Addressing the thousands of participants, including heads of State and Government, civil society representatives, business people, as well as actors, and ocean and marine life advocates, President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson said the "time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways".

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the first United Nations conference on oceans Monday with a warning that the seas are "under threat as never before", noting one recent study warns that discarded plastic garbage could outweigh fish by 2050 if nothing is done.

"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".

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South Africa has an advantage by virtue of its geographical positioning, and is "globally recognised" as unique and a hotspot of biodiversity boasting over 10 000 marine species; however, the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 will be key to its sustainable development.

South Africa, with an ocean space greater than its land territory, had earmarked the ocean to promote economic growth and boost job creation, she told delegates at the Oceans Conference in NY. "The health of our oceans and seas requires us to put aside short-term national gain, to avoid long-term global catastrophe", he added. Those factors, he emphasized, had made the USA the "main threat to Mother Earth and to life itself".

This includes a shift in attention to sustainable development around the use of the world's oceans. Overall warming trends, acidification, coral bleaching, and sea leve rise, she continued "are affecting ecosystems in all regions, threatening fisheries, food chains and the oceans' ability to act as efficient carbon sinks".

That is why Sweden and Fiji jointly took the initiative to organise the UN Ocean Conference.

"We are committed to halting and reversing the decline in the health and productivity of our ocean", says the 3-page document, which also expresses alarm at the impact of climate change on the ocean.

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