A surge in the number of voluntary commitments to take action to improve the health of the ocean has been recorded, and more are expected as the Ocean Conference gets underway on Monday, 5 June at United Nations Headquarter in New York. The Conference will explore how to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14: conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

The commitments, now numbering over 600 and still increasing, target a wide range of ocean problems, ranging from protecting coral reefs, strengthening sustainable fisheries, reducing plastic pollution and addressing the impacts of climate change on the ocean. Among the commitments are 13 registered by the governments of Belgium, Fiji, Grenada, Indonesia, Palau and Sweden. They feature initiatives to combat marine litter, conserve and manage marine environments, to protect biodiversity and marine life and to meet targets for marine protected areas. 

Belgium, New Zealand, Sweden, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu have pledged their support to the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), committing to address the significant amount of marine debris caused by lost and discarded fishing gear. Around 640,000 tones of fishing equipment is left in the world's oceans each year. Commonly known as “ghost gear”, abandoned, lost and discarded fishing nets, lines and traps can lurk in oceans for up to 600 years and are one of the biggest and most potent threats to sea life. 

One of the vows made by the private sector takes aim at reducing CO2 emissions from the global shipping industry. Registered by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and its 37 member national shipowners’ associations, the initiative seeks to minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification. The ultimate goal of the project is to reduce CO2 emissions per ton of cargo transported one kilometer by sea by at least 50 percent by 2050.

The young sisters Melati (15) and Isabel (13) Wijsen, who founded Bye Bye Plastic Bags in Bali three years ago have declared their aim to make Bali plastic bag free in 2018.

The Conference will result in a Call for Action that will be formally adopted on Friday. It calls on countries to implement strategies for reducing the use of plastics. The Call takes note of the Paris Agreement on climate change and includes measures to protect coastal and blue carbon ecosystems such as mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrass and coral reefs as well as enhancing sustainable fisheries management. Countries are called upon to decisively prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing and eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The Ocean Conference, the first U.N. conference of its kind on the issue, is hosted by the Governments of Fiji and Sweden.

Source: Maritime Executive