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Report – Recommendation to the Council, the Commission, and the EEAS on Libya – A8-0159/2018 – Committee on Foreign Affairs

to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on Libya


The European Parliament,

–  having regard to UN Security Cou…

General Market

Vital Marine Habitats Being Destroyed by Illegal Fishing Practices, Harmful Subsidies, Speakers Warn at United Nations Ocean Conference

Speakers in the United Nations Ocean Conference today tackled ways to combat illegal fishing practices that were destroying vital marine habitats, as well as eliminate the $35 billion in harmful subsidies that had led to overfishing, distorted markets and chronic mismanagement of the world’s fisheries.

In a morning partnership dialogue on “Making fisheries sustainable”, panellist Karl Brauner, Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said trade negotiations in the area of harmful fisheries subsidies were referenced in Sustainable Development Goal 14.6.  The World Trade Organization was in intense negotiations to come up with agreed language on the prohibition of subsidies at its December Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires.

He said questions hinged on how to identify such behaviour without converting WTO into a fisheries-management organization, citing other challenges around providing “special flexibilities” to developing countries to support poor fishers without undercutting those disciplines.  Fisheries sometimes represented the only source of employment, which made forgoing the right to Government assistance a major challenge.

Panellist Arni Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), agreed that harmful subsides could be stopped through WTO.  Multi-stakeholder and targeted support to help coastal communities get their products to market would meanwhile encourage “blue growth”, he said, adding that FAO was prepared to help develop a plan to rebuild fisheries.

On the issue of illegal fishing, Oumar Guèye, Minister for Fisheries and Maritime Economy of Senegal, who co-chaired the meeting, said the problem should be addressed by a global coalition.  For its part, Senegal had toughened sanctions against vessels illegally fishing its waters, impounding and fining them $300 million and seizing repeat offenders.  It also had taken a biological inventory to ensure that species could regenerate, established marine protected areas and ratified the Port State Measures Agreement.

In the ensuing discussion, representatives of Government, industry and civil society exchanged ideas for addressing those problems, with Norway’s representative stressing that illegal fishing amounted to “stealing from dinner tables”.  Vanuatu’s delegate cited a lack of international cooperation to address subsidies that incentivized overfishing in regional waters, while the representative of the Republic of Korea, meanwhile, was one of several who pointed to the Port State Measures Agreement as a way to deter those practices.

A speaker from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation said marine resources had declined mainly because of industrial fishing operations that used bottom-trolling and dredging techniques.  She recommended designating coastal areas for small-scale fishers and banning harmful fisheries subsidies.

In the afternoon, the Conference held a partnership dialogue on “Increasing economic benefits to small island developing States and least developed countries and providing access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets”.  Co-Chair Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, opened the discussion with a call for more investment in marine technology and an embrace of broad-based wealth creation.  Small island developing States could not wait for technology handouts.  “We need to build on our own institutions, our own scientists, our own intellectual properties and our own entrepreneurs,” he declared, pointing out that in Grenada, mobile apps now helped fishers sell their catch in international markets.

Along similar lines, Marko Pomerants, Minister for Environment of Estonia, who also co-chaired the meeting, said empowering local communities was essential.  Estonia had granted special status to island communities, where fishing was integral to traditional cultures and livelihoods.  Cooperative associations had helped to improve market access.  “There is strength in numbers,” he said, enabling small operators to pool resources and improve purchasing power.

The Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 8 June.

Partnership Dialogue I

In the morning, the Ocean Conference held a partnership dialogue on the topic “making fisheries sustainable”.  Moderated by Anthony Long, Director, Ending Illegal Fishing Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and co-chaired by Dominic LeBlanc, Minister for Fisheries, Oceans and the Coast Guard of Canada, and Oumar Guèye, Minister for Fisheries and Maritime Economy of Senegal, it featured a panel discussion by Arni Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO); Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, Director of Global Fisheries and Aquaculture, Monterey Bay Aquarium, United States; Karl Brauner, Deputy Director-General, World Trade Organization (WTO); and Milton Haughton, Executive Director, Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism Secretariat.

Mr. LEBLANC said Canada was a proud maritime nation, with fisheries and aquaculture contributing $9 billion to its economy each year, generating countless jobs in rural, coastal and indigenous communities.  The fisheries sector provided the backbone for many national and small-scale economies.  Noting that sustainable fisheries were key to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals, he said “we need to make a more concerted effort to tackle such things as illegal fishing, underreporting and harmful subsidies that result in over-capacity.”  With international action as the common goal, WTO provided the venue and means to achieve enforceable fisheries subsidies rules.  Fisheries management played an important role in conservation and had led to positive biodiversity outcomes, with a range of measures that protected to single stocks and the ecosystems upon which they relied.  Those conservation objectives must be incorporated into fisheries management plans.  Marine protected areas were an essential component of sustainable fisheries management.  Canada had adopted a milestone to conserve 5 per cent of its waters by the end of 2017, as a sign of its commitment to conserving 10 per cent by 2020.  Describing Canada’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change as “unwavering”, he also underscored the importance of its partnerships with provincial and territorial governments, indigenous peoples, environmental groups and industry in advancing the marine conservation agenda.

Mr. GUÈYE said Senegal was a country of fisheries, with 6,000 actors working in that sector and 75 per cent of people’s animal protein needs coming from fish and marine life.  “Senegal is very interested in sustainable fisheries,” he said, pointing to a law that reserved space for artisanal fisheries, within which large industrial fisheries were prohibited.  In the south, all vessels were banned from approaching the coast.  Senegal also had revised its fisheries code, which now allowed for trout to be fished at 40 centimetres, rather than 20 centimetres, with the greater depths allowing more time for the fish to multiply.  Underscoring the need to combat large-scale fishing, he said another aspect was to combat illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, which should be addressed in the most appropriate manner by a global coalition.  Senegal had toughened sanctions against vessels illegally fishing its waters, impounding and fining them $300 million, and seizing repeat offenders.  The Government also had taken a biological inventory to ensure that species could regenerate, established marine protected areas, acceded to a forum that ensured transparency in the fisheries industry, and ratified the FAO Port State Measures Agreement.  “We have high hopes for this meeting,” he said, and for strong measures to be taken.

Mr. MATHIESEN said fisheries today faced many different problems.  Three, however, stood out, and if they were tackled and solved, other problems would be easier to resolve.  Those three problems included illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; the difficulty of managing migrating fish stocks on the high seas and in sovereign coastal waters; and improving the status of coastal fishing communities in developing countries, including small island developing States.  Several factors drove those problems, including an estimated $35 billion in harmful subsidies, population growth, poverty, economic and forced migration, climate change and unprecedented levels of climate events.  Solutions would include improved science-based local, national and regional fisheries management, while illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing could be addressed through existing instruments.  Strong regional management models were in place, but they required political, scientific and financial support.  Harmful subsidies could be stopped through WTO.  A multi-stakeholder and targeted approach to support coastal communities and get their products to market would meanwhile encourage “blue growth”, he said, adding that the FAO was prepared to help develop a blueprint to rebuild fisheries.

Ms. KEMMERLY said that, about 20 years ago, non-governmental organizations launched a movement that sought to create market demand for sustainable seafood which involved, among other things, encouraging businesses to use their market leverage to improve policy, traceability and social responsibility.  For the non-governmental organization community, sustainability was not just an environmental matter, but also a question of social responsibility.  While mainly focused so far in the United States and the European Union, the sustainable seafood movement was growing in other places, such as Brazil, Japan and South-East Asia.  She went on to describe efforts being made with regard to tuna, with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation engaged in reporting, conservation and traceability measures, and with shrimp, a sector that would require making sustainability profitable for hundreds of thousands of smallholders in South-East Asia.

Mr. BRAUNER said trade negotiations in the area of harmful subsidies were referenced in target 14.6.  It was natural that WTO, the only organization with binding rules and subsidies, and a conceptual approach, was the venue for subsidies negotiations.  WTO fisheries subsidies work had been reenergized by target 14.6, with proposals coming in to fulfil WTO’s part of that target.  WTO was in a period of intense negotiations with proposals from least developed countries, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group, European Union, a group of Latin American countries, New Zealand and Indonesia, all pushing hard for a binding decision to be made at the December ministerial conference.  There was emerging convergence on the prohibition of subsidies for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, referred to in target 14.6, and on the prohibition of subsidies for overfished stocks.  Questions hinged on how to identify such behavior, without converting WTO into a fisheries-management organization.  Some developing countries did not want fisheries-management references in the treaty, whereas others said that without such points, subsidies discipline would be impossible.

Another challenge, he continued, was how to provide “special flexibilities” to developing countries to support poor fishers and develop their own fisheries, without undercutting those disciplines.  WTO’s business was about trade flows and products produced on land.  Those taking place under water involved internationally shared resources or those outside national jurisdiction.  For such reasons, the effect of subsidies was not on trade in fish products, but rather on access to resources, with an indirect effect on trade.  Fisheries sometimes represented the only source of employment, which made forgoing the right to Government assistance a major challenge.  Target 14.6 represented a commitment by all Governments — individually — to eliminate harmful fishery subsidies.  In parallel, there was a WTO process under way to achieve a multilateral agreement prohibiting illegal fishing.  There was a possibility for that outcome this year, representing WTO’s contribution to meeting the 2020 date for eliminating the most harmful fishing subsidies.  Such an agreement could undergird individual Government fisheries subsidies reform, which in turn, should facilitate multilateral agreement.

Mr. HAUGHTON said the benefits of creating sustainable fisheries depended on how States implemented governance and management reforms to conserve and protect the marine environment.  “This is undoubtedly the single most important challenge for fisheries in this generation,” he said, noting that the Caribbean Sea was semi-enclosed, representing one interconnected marine ecosystem.  Stocks were shared between two or more States, and in some cases, extended into the high seas.  Cooperation was fundamental for fisheries management.  Caribbean Governments in 2002 had established a regional fisheries body to facilitate cooperation and conservation of fisheries resources.  It was comprised of a ministerial council, a fisheries forum, a permanent secretariat and a number of technical and scientific working groups.  There were three other fisheries bodies that were in the region.

He said small island developing States had multispecies fisheries served by small, open vessels, noting that most commercially important stocks in the region had been over-exploited, while others had not significantly contributed to economic development.  Despite that catches over the last decade were 30 per cent lower than the 30-year average, the overall production trend had been positive.  The regional fisheries management bodies were investing more of their own resources to harmonize their practices.  Partnerships had grown among small-scale operators.  Partnership between and among the three main fisheries bodies had taken the form of formal cooperation agreements to strengthen fisheries management.  More broadly, such partnerships had helped “enormously” in transitioning the region towards sustainable fisheries management.

In the ensuing discussion, Heads of Government, ministers, other senior officials and representatives of Member States, international organizations and civil society covered a wide range of fisheries-related issues, from illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries to zone-based fisheries management and the little-mentioned place of Caribbean sport fishing.

SEREMAIAH MATAI NAWALU, Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Bio-security of Vanuatu, said managing Pacific fisheries through monitoring, control and surveillance efforts, particularly against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, remained a big battle for the Pacific region.  There was also a lack of international cooperation to address subsidies that incentivized overfishing in regional waters.  Tackling those problems and others required a multilateral and integrated approach.

ENELE SOPOAGA, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, underscored an urgent need for capacity-building, legislation and enforcement measures.  Expressing concern over the weak management of high-seas fisheries, he called on partner nations to adhere to zone-based fisheries management approaches.  He added that an ongoing process under United Nations auspices was required to ensure a commitment to healthy oceans.

TONE SKOGEN, State Secretary of Norway, said illegal fishing amounted to stealing from dinner tables.  The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which recently came into force, would make illegal fishing less attractive.  Due to continuous research, annually revised regulations and enforcement, Norway’s commercial fish stocks were in good condition.

The representative of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency recommended zone-based management as a way to empower States to better manage their marine resources while promoting sustainable development.  Noting that Pacific Island countries had a long history of cooperation and investment, he said data-sharing, collaborative asset deployment and other forms of partnership had made a difference in the level of illegal tuna fishing in the region.

The representative of the British Virgin Islands said not much was said about sport fishing, but that activity involved valuable species that were important to marine ecological systems.  He outlined a number of measures being taken in that regard by the territory, including a strengthened licensing regime, assessing the impact of the number of vessels on the water, and controlling the number and duration of fishing tournaments.  He went on to reiterate the British Virgin Island’s commitment to protect reefs and sharks.

Mr. BRAUER, on that point, replied that it was a matter of choosing the most appropriate format for the region.

The representative of the Republic of Korea stressed that the Port State Measures Agreement would help deter illegal fishing.

The representative of Saint Kitts and Nevis said his country comprised some 50,000 people, living on 104 square miles of land surrounded by the Caribbean Sea.  He described a strategic plan for the Government, working with various stakeholders, to chart the course for making fisheries sustainable, by underscoring the need for greater participation among all stakeholders, and more attention to disaster risk management.

The representative of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation said 90 per cent of fishers were in the small-scale sector, which provided half of the world’s catches and more than 60 per cent of fish for human consumption.  Marine resources had declined mainly because of industrial-scale fishing operations.  Underscoring the importance of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, she said large-scale, non-selective fishing was the greatest negative impact on the marine habitat, much of it conducted through bottom-trolling and dredging, which destroyed fish habitats.  Those practices must be tackled by designating coastal areas for small-scale fishers, and banning harmful fisheries subsidies, including for fuel.

The representative of Iceland said the Government was marking the ocean floor in its exclusive economic zone using multibeam techniques, efforts that were vital to the sustainable use of marine life.  She highlighted Iceland’s commitment on the adoption of formal fisheries management plans, stressing that in the international context, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was the main framework for sustainable management, as long as States met their obligations and worked together.

The representative of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) said its cooperation with law enforcement in the Caribbean had led to the arrest in July 2016 of a vessel carrying out illegal fishing.  Through “Project Scale”, INTERPOL agents in Lyon, with experience in fisheries crime, carried out criminal analysis of illegal fishing activities, which were often linked to human trafficking.  INTERPOL offered a holistic approach, providing and reading notices, and sharing information on the modalities of fisheries crime.  There was also a secure network that linked States and provided investigative support to certain cases.

The representative of Spain underscored the need to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which he called a “blight” on the seas that destroyed the profitability of companies that complied with rules and regulations.

The representative of Friends of Marine Life said coastal communities in India had been pursuing sustainable fishing practices for centuries, employing traditional knowledge.  However, mega-projects were threatening their livelihoods, he said, identifying — among other challenges — the problems posed by bottom trawling, breakwater construction and overfishing by large vessels supported by large business lobbies.

The representative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said the elimination of harmful subsidies was central to the multilateral trade agenda.  Fish subsidies contributed to distorting market prices, encouraged unfair competition and expanded inequality between developed and developing countries.  With attention to the issue gaining momentum, he said Member States should work towards a common text for the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires.

The representative of Indonesia said there should be a designated body to ensure that the right of oceans to be protected was not bothered by political change or agendas.  The high seas meanwhile needed to be better managed so that distant-country fishing did not harm resource sustainability, she said, adding that the General Assembly should, in its resolutions, acknowledge transnational fisheries crimes.

MARCELO MENA, Minister for Environment of Chile, said his country was specifically combatting illegal fishing and working actively to eliminate harmful subsidies.  In its opinion, stronger international cooperation and regulation — within the framework of existing multilateral agreements and regional fisheries management associations — was needed.  It was vital, he added, to know more about the effects of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture and to set out plans accordingly.

The representative of the Marine Stewardship Council said its certification and labelling programmes for seafood caught in the wild provided an incentive for other fisheries to improve their performance.  Putting the size of the market for certified and traceable seafood products at $5 billion, he said credible certification had an important contribution to make to address the problem of overfishing.

Also speaking today were ministers and representatives of Thailand, Gabon, Marshall Islands and Sweden.

Representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO), World Bank, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and Vulcan, Inc., International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Comunidad y Biodiversidad and World Economic Forum also spoke.

Partnership Dialogue II

The afternoon featured a dialogue partnership titled “increasing economic benefits to small island developing States and least developed countries, and providing access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets”.  Moderated by Meg Taylor, Pacific Ocean Commissioner, it featured presentations by Mohamed Shainee, Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, Maldives; Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, United Nations; Laura Tuck, Vice-President for Sustainable Development, World Bank Group; and Mitchell Lay, Coordinator of Caribbean Network Fisherfolk Organization.  The dialogue was co-chaired by Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, and Marko Pomerants, Minister for Environment, Estonia.

Mr. MITCHELL said the issue of jobs and livelihoods that allowed economies to capture more economic value was a common thread for today’s discussion.  “I feel strongly that we need more investment in marine technology,” he said, applicable to small island developing States and least developed countries alike.  On one hand, States must ensure that artisanal fishers were custodians of their marine resources and sustainably reaping the economic benefits.  On the other hand, they must reduce pressures on the resources by providing alternatives and more rewarding livelihoods for coastal communities.  In Africa, for example, mobile phones allowed fishers to check market prices while at sea, leading to better prices for fish, less wastage and more environmental conservation.

Similarly in Grenada, he said mobile apps now helped fishers sell their catch in international markets.  “To lift our people, we must embrace broad-based wealth creation through innovation and technology,” he said, underscoring Grenada’s commitment to the Blue Innovation Institute, which would be a hub for innovation in coastal planning, natural capital enhancement, aquaculture and biotechnology.  Indeed, the size of small islands should be seen as a distinct advantage.  Those countries should be viewed as large ocean States.  He urged embracing the optimism around blue growth, and the idea that, by 2030, such economies had the potential to outpace global economic growth.  Small island developing States could not wait for technology-transfer handouts.  “We need to build on our own institutions, our own scientists, our own intellectual properties and our own entrepreneurs,” he declared.

Mr. POMERANTS said Estonia, a small eastern European country, was roughly the size of the Dominican Republic, with 1.3 million people.  It boasted a maritime area almost as large as its mainland, with one of the world’s longest coastlines per capita and some 1,200 islands.  Small-scale coastal fisheries were an important part of its cultural heritage, and as a sea-faring people, “you can find an Estonian in every port in the world”.  Estonia was sharing its best practices through technology transfer and capacity-building.  The key to sustainability lay in a holistic and integrated framework.

Given the transboundary nature of ecosystems, he said the best results had been achieved by regional marine governance frameworks that facilitated cooperation.  His region’s organization — HELCOM — facilitated marine research, with policies based on the best scientific data.  To improve access for small-scale artisanal fisheries, empowering local communities was essential, he said, stressing that Estonia had granted special status to island communities, where fishing was integral to traditional cultures and livelihoods.  To improve market access, his country had achieved success through cooperative associations.  “There is strength in numbers,” he said, enabling small operators to pool resources and improve purchasing power in terms of price setting.  Community involvement was instrumental to achieving Goal 14, he said, noting that Estonia’s reputation as a digital pioneer could help other countries redefine governance through its e-governance platform.  To ensure sustainable fisheries management, an online fishing permit system had been set up, which today issued 90 per cent of recreational licenses.

Ms. TAYLOR said that, as a Pacific Islander, she hailed from a region dominated — depending on one’s point of view — by small island developing States or big ocean-stewardship States, where the importance of coastal fisheries could not be overstated.  Fishing was a primary source of protein, fish consumption was among the highest in the world and inshore fisheries provided income for 50 per cent of all households.  The interactive discussion could be informed not only by Goal 14, but by other Goals, such as eradicating poverty, ending hunger, gender equality and combating climate change.

Mr. SHAINEE said “we don’t talk about issues facing oceans nearly enough”, yet few places depended on oceans more than small island developing States.  Today’s partnership dialogue theme thus addressed what those States could do in their own backyards.  Discussing the situation in Maldives, he attributed the success of its tourism industry — which accounted for 28 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) — to the recognition of its natural heritage as its biggest asset.  Resort development was regulated with a view to protecting the environment, with architecture blending into the natural surroundings.  Upon determining that shark tourism produced more revenue than shark fishing, Maldives declared its entire exclusive economic zone as a shark sanctuary.  Turning to tuna, he said that by catching them on a one-by-one basis, Maldives had created one of the world’s leanest and greenest fisheries which recognized that consumers would pay more for sustainably harvested products.  More tuna meant more sharks and healthier reefs, which attracted tourism, with the benefits multiplying accordingly, he said.

Ms. ‘UTOIKAMANU said Goal 14 was important for nations in special situations such as least developed countries and small island developing States where millions of people depended on marine resources for nutrition and livelihood.  Noting that the national fishing capacity of small island developing States was limited, she emphasized the importance of ongoing cooperation with distant water fishing nations and the international community at large.  Countries in special situations were meanwhile vulnerable to external shocks, as well as rapid population growth, urban congestion, climate change and imported food and energy.  Long-term efforts could be undone in a matter of hours, she said.  Turning to the tourism sector, she said it was critical for small island developing States and least developed countries, having lifted some of the latter into middle-income status.  Tourism could help States meet several Sustainable Development Goals, but if not properly managed, it could degrade the environment.  Water scarcity was another concern, as peak tourist seasons often coincided with dry seasons.  Managing water resources would require a package of relevant measures, but with the right set of incentives and regulations, water management could be improved for all.

Ms. TUCK discussed the Bank’s “Sunken Billions” report which found that, because of overfishing, global fisheries forego more than $80 billion a year, compared to an optimal scenario.  It examined what would happen if fishing was reduced by 44 per cent over an unspecific period of time.  It found that the biomass of fish would almost triple.  Fish would be larger and have a higher value.  If fishing was reduced by 5 per cent annually for 10 years from its 2012 level, the optimal level would be achieved by 2030.  “Sunken billions” referred to the mismatch between increasing fishing efforts and the declining catch.  Giving the oceans a break would lead to increased catch and increased income at the local level.  “We need good governance and capable institutions to ensure that changes are sustainable,” she said.  For example, after decades of being prices takers, the parties to Nauru Agreement gathered in 2008 to use their huge tuna resources as leverage in the Vessel Day Scheme to reduce the fishing effort.  Through a $40 million Pacific region ocean project, the Bank was working to strengthen their capacity and ensure those gains were sustained.  In Kiribati, the financial institution’s technical assistance was helping the Government collect revenue from access fees paid by vessels into an $800 million sovereign wealth fund.  In all such cases, the Bank was supporting measures to enforce tenure rights, and ensure that fishing communities and operators were involved in decisions on fisheries management.

Mr. LAY recommended that States recognize and enhance the contributions of small-scale fisheries to their economies, as well as promote and ensure the security of tenure, in line with the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries.  To enhance productivity, he recommended looking at how to sustainably use the significant — but either un- or under-utilized — ocean resources of many small island developing States, which could supply local populations with adequate food.  Addressing marketing and value-added aspects, he said the entire fish often was not used, which translated to suboptimal food and economic benefit.  Energy production and related activities should be carefully considered so as not to negatively impact small-scale fisheries.  Further, Governments should consider expanding local market access, as small island developing States often produced less than they consumed and lacked effective local marketing mechanisms.  Access and governance issues must be grounded in local realities, especially when considering marine protected areas, which limited small-scale fisheries access.  Similarly, tourism should not negatively impact small-scale fisheries, and conversely, the linkages between fisheries and tourism should be deepened in the context of food and recreational activities, while promoting local livelihoods.  He also advocated support for the development of small-scale fisheries organizations.  “This is the precondition for meaningful participation in the decision making process,” he said.  “If we create spaces for participation, States should carve out support for small-scale fisheries to fill those spaces.”

In the ensuing discussion, participants explored ways to support small island developing countries and, more specifically, access of their small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets.

BARON WAQA, President of Nauru, said countries that benefited from the exploitation of his nation’s tuna stocks must do more to share the burden that such fishing entailed.  Artisanal fishers could be supported through enhanced access to resources and markets, he said, adding that Nauru sought to establish long-term and productive partnerships that would unlock the full potential of sustainable ocean development.

The representative of Seychelles said his country had pioneered a financial instrument to raise $15 million in capital from private investors interested in putting money into sustainable development, including marine conservation, fisheries governance and the diversification of value chains.

The representative of Australia discussed her country’s official development assistance (ODA) in the Indo-Pacific region, including a programme that would support Pacific Island countries to delineate their maritime boundaries.  Another initiative would provide support to prevent and deter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

The representative of Rare said the next 10 years must focus on community-led solutions and small-scale fishers, many of whom were women.  His non-governmental organization was committed to mobilizing $100 million to support the sustainability of small-scale fisheries.

GALE RIGOBERT, Minister for Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development of Saint Lucia, said international quota management mechanisms must act in a way that did not disadvantage small island developing States.  Noting that only so much could be achieved without appropriate assistance, she said genuine, mutually beneficial and durable partnerships were needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of the International Renewable Energy Agency described the “SIDS [small island developing States] Lighthouse” initiative to transform energy systems and help those States integrate renewables into their energy mix.  The agency saw big opportunities in ocean energy technology and had recently updated its patent study.

The representative of New Zealand said 60 per cent of the global tuna catch was harvested in the Pacific region.  Yet, Pacific nations received only a small proportion of the market value of that resource.  New Zealand had invested $54 million to improve sustainable fish management and address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, notably working with the Cook Islands to set up a catch quota system.  She urged countries to cooperate in the establishment of effective WTO disciplines on harmful subsidies.

The representative of Denmark said there were 406 islands in her country, and its marine resources were an integral part of the economy.  Since 2007, Denmark had allocated more fish stocks to coastal fishermen.  More broadly, small island developing States’ dependence on fossil fuels was unsustainable.  As such, Denmark had helped create the SIDS DOCK Support Program, establishing stations to connect small islands’ energy centres — notably in the Seychelles, Mauritius, and Sao Tome and Principe — with global markets.

The representative of the Commonwealth Secretariat said 45 of its 52 members were island States, where fish constituted more than 50 per cent of exports.  She called for addressing harmful subsidies that distorted markets, stressing that national maritime resources had been extracted by third parties without sufficient financial capture on behalf of the State and its citizens.  She proposed the creation of a Blue Commonwealth Charter, which would apply to sustainable oceans economic development, stressing that truly blue economic development must be done in a way that preserved ocean health.

The representative of Conservation International announced a voluntary commitment on social responsibility in global fisheries and aquaculture, as well as a financing commitment for community-managed conservation mosaics along Colombia’s Pacific coast.  Called La Minga — or “Everyone Together” — it would combine community, national and regional budget allocations and a $5 million endowment.

The representative of Papua New Guinea said the ocean and its resources offered food security and jobs for 15,000 people in his country, 80 per cent of whom were women.  Papua New Guinea was engaged domestically, regionally and globally, particularly as a party to the Nauru Agreement.

The representative of FAO drew attention to the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, adopted in 2014.

The representative of India said his country’s assistance to small island developing States and littoral least-developed countries included capacity-building, such as the provision of satellite-based information that promoted more efficient fishing.  He added that, to ensure better market access for artisanal fishers, sanitary trade barriers should be addressed under the aegis of WTO.

The representative of Trinidad and Tobago said her country had adopted globally recognized approaches and tools to alleviate conflicts between artisanal fishers and offshore oil and gas activities.  She also discussed efforts to exploit lion fish for economic benefit by training and incentivizing fishers to target that invasive species and to encourage its consumption by the general public.

The representative of the International Whaling Commission said her organization was studying the impact of whale-watching on individual whales, their population and habitats.  It had also developed a web-based whale-watching handbook to provide relevant information to operators, regulators and the public that included maps, information on species and case studies to assist decision-making.

Also speaking today were ministers and representatives of the Solomon Islands, Madagascar and Kiribati.

Representatives of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Indigenous peoples’ and community conserved territories and areas Consortium, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), CORDIO East Africa, The Nature Conservancy, French Polynesia, Pacific Island Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and the International Seabed Authority also spoke.

General Information

Secretary-General Calls for Strategic Vision, New Model of Governance to Save World’s Seas, as United Nations Ocean Conference Opens

The inaugural United Nations Ocean Conference opened today with a call for urgent action to improve the health of the world’s seas, now in peril after decades of pollution, overfishing and the unattended effects of climate change that were decimating marine life, and in turn, livelihoods.

The Conference, which runs through 9 June, will explore how to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14:  conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Opening the event, Secretary-General António Guterres told world leaders that unless they could overcome the territorial and resource interests that had blocked progress, the state of the oceans would continue to deteriorate.  “We need a new strategic vision,” he said, a new model of ocean governance.  The first step was to end the artificial dichotomy between economic demands and the health of our seas.

Concrete steps were needed, he said, from expanding marine protected areas and managing fisheries, to reducing pollution and cleaning up plastic waste, the latter of which, if left unchecked, would outweigh fish in the sea by 2050.  The political will which had led to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda must now be translated into funding commitments.  Better data must be gathered and best practices shared.

“Improving the health of our oceans is a test for multilateralism,” he said. “We created these problems.  With decisive, coordinated global action, we can solve them.”

Peter Thomson (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the time had come to correct wrongful ways.  It was inexcusable that humanity tipped the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.  Illegal fishing and harmful fisheries subsidies were driving fish stocks to collapse, he said, while greenhouse gases were causing sea levels to rise.

The task was to ensure that Goal 14 received the support necessary to meet its targets, he said.  “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean.”

Co-President of the Conference Isabella Lövin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of Sweden, said the ocean was 30 per cent more acidic than in pre-industrial times.  Big predatory fish stocks had declined by 70 to 90 per cent, and in some areas, there were more microplastics than plankton.  Without a healthy planet, people would not prosper.  She called on Member States, business, civil society, academia and other stakeholders to start making a real difference.

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and Conference Co-President, said oceans were being treated as rubbish dumps.  The rich marine bounty that generations had relied on for sustenance was being destroyed.  He urged participants to act in concert to protect marine resources, stressing that no one country or Government could afford to ignore the magnitude of the threat.  Goal 14 must rocket to the top of the global agenda.

Stressing that oceans had a direct impact on poverty education, health, economic growth, food security and job creation, Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, added that solutions must be put into place to ensure that oceans remained a source of life and human well-being for generations.

Wu Hongbo, Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said special attention should be paid to the means of implementation for Goal 14, including capacity-building and enhanced financing, which was critical for small island developing States, least developed countries and developing nations alike.

The afternoon featured a partnership dialogue on marine pollution, during which world leaders, along with senior officials from Government, the private sector, scientific community and civil society, explored challenges relating to particular pollutants, such as microplastics, and broader trends, such as the rapid growth of coastal cities, which would require more scientific research, knowledge sharing and governance arrangements.

The Conference — officially titled the United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development — opened with a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony, featuring three calls of a ceremonial conch shell, a Kava drinking ceremony and cultural dance.

In other business, delegates elected Mr. Bainimarama and Ms. Lövin as the Presidents of the Conference.

The Conference also adopted, without a vote, its rules of procedure (document A/CONF.230/2) and agenda (document A/CONF.230/1), as well as a Secretariat note on organizational and procedural matters (document A/CONF.230/3).  Twelve Vice-Presidents were elected by acclamation:  Algeria, Croatia, Estonia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Ireland, Kenya, Morocco, New Zealand, Poland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.  Arthur Amaya Andambi (Kenya) was elected Rapporteur-General.

The nine members of the General Assembly Credentials Committee — Cameroon, China, Malawi, Netherlands, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia and the United States — were meanwhile appointed members of the Conference Credentials Committee without a vote.

The Ocean Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 6 June.

Opening Statements

ISABELLA LÖVIN, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate of Sweden, and Co-President of the Conference, described the global ocean conveyer belt as a sort of ocean bloodstream that connected everybody.  The ocean accounted for 97 per cent of the living biosphere, contained 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of water and provided 50 per cent of the planet’s oxygen.  Mankind always believed it was endless, infinite and impossible for humans to affect in any significant way, she said, but today it was 30 per cent more acidic than in pre-industrial times, big predatory fish stocks had declined by 70 to 90 per cent and surface waters were getting warmer.  In some areas, there were more microplastics than plankton.

She recalled an interview a few years ago with an Australian yachtsman who, while crossing the Pacific Ocean, saw rubbish floating everywhere, including toys, car tires and telegraph poles.  More recently, researchers on uninhabited Henderson Island, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, found 38 million plastic items on its shore.  “By now we know one thing for certain — the ocean is not endless, not infinite,” she said.  “But it has no borders.  It knows nothing about nations.  It is just one united ecosystem and we are part of it.”

Environmental protection and economic development were inseparable, she said, adding that without a healthy planet, people would not prosper.  Sweden was committed to maintaining the political momentum created by the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and called on all Member States, business, civil society, academia and other stakeholders, to start working towards making a real difference.  “We know what needs to be done.  We know the ocean is broken.  We now need to sit together and make the long to-do list we all need to be ticking off together in order to fix it,” she said, adding that a better moment to do so would never come.

JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji and Co-President of the Ocean Conference, said climate change and the state of the world’s oceans could not be separated.  Rising sea levels and ocean acidity had a direct impact on people’s lives and countries’ prosperity.  “We come from opposite sides of the Earth but we are united in our determination to meet the challenges head-on,” he said, appealing to young people in particular to become agents for change, whether by collecting bottles from a beach or banding together to clean up coastal areas.  “Our waterways are choking,” he said, and oceans were being treated as rubbish dumps.  Turtles, dolphins and sharks were being caught in nets, and whales had stomachs full of rubbish.  The rich marine bounty that generations had relied on for sustenance was being destroyed.

He said the degradation must stop, appealing to the world’s people to act in concert to protect marine resources.  “That effort starts now,” he said, pressing to participants to send a message that time was running out to save our seas and oceans.  No one country or Government could afford to ignore the magnitude of the threat.  As a Fijian, he had the Pacific Ocean “running through my blood,” and it said it pained him to see the deterioration of that precious resource.  Where there once had been an abundance of fish, boat hulls were now increasingly sparse or non-existent.  Greedy nations and commercial interests were robbing countries like Fiji of food and livelihoods through over-fishing.  Noting that small island developing States lacked the means to police their economic zones, he said Goal 14 must rocket to the top of the global agenda and he encouraged all participants to make the Ocean Conference a success.

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said oceans and seas covered two thirds of the planet, providing food, energy, water, jobs and economic benefits to every country.  They were a crucial buffer against climate change and a massive resource for sustainable development.  Many nationalities, including his own, had a special relationship with the sea.  The truth was, the sea has a special relationship with all of us.  Yet pollution, over-fishing and the effects of climate change were severely damaging ocean health, he said, with one study finding that plastic in the seas could outweigh fish by 2050.

Indeed, oceans were becoming more acidic, he said, causing coral bleaching and reducing biodiversity, while fisheries in some places were collapsing.  Dead zones — underwater deserts where life could not survive due to a lack of oxygen — were growing rapidly.  Conflicting demands from industry, fishing, shipping, mining and tourism were stressing coastal systems.  While numerous reports, global commissions and scientific assessments had described the serious damage to the world’s most vital life support system, Governments were not making full use of the tools available, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“We created these problems,” he said.  “With decisive, coordinated global action, we can solve them”.  The Sustainable Development Goals must be the road map.  The essential first step must be to end the artificial dichotomy between economic demands and ocean health.  Strong political leadership and new partnerships were needed, based on the existing legal framework, and he commended all who had signed the Call for Action, to be formally adopted this week.  From expanding marine protected areas and managing fisheries, to reducing pollution to cleaning up plastic waste, he called for a step change locally, nationally and globally.  The ongoing work to create a legal framework on conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction was particularly important in that regard.

Further, the political will of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda must be translated into funding commitments, he said, stressing that better data, information and analysis were also required, because “we can’t improve what we don’t measure”.  Finally, best practices and experiences must be shared.  For its part, the United Nations was committed to providing integrated, coordinated support for the implementation of all historic agreements of the past year.  He was personally determined to break down barriers to improve the Organization’s performance and accountability.

He said the United Nations was building partnerships with Governments, the private sector and civil society, as well as working with international financial institutions on innovative financing to release more funds.  It was harnessing big data to improve the basis for decision-making.  A new strategic vision was needed and he called on Member States to define a new model for ocean governance.  Unless the territorial and resource interests that had blocked progress for too long were overcome, the oceans would continue to deteriorate.  He urged participants to set aside short-term national gain to prevent long-term global catastrophe, stressing that “conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.”

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, stressed that the Conference offered the best opportunity to reverse the cycle of decline that human activity had brought upon the seas.  Sustainable Development Goal 14 — the ocean’s goal — was humanity’s only universally agreed measure to conserve and sustainably manage its resources.  The task ahead was to ensure that the Goal received the support necessary to meet its critical targets.  “To do that, we need to hear the truth about the state of the ocean,” he said. “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean.”

Indeed, he said, the time had come to correct wrongful ways.  It was inexcusable that humanity tipped the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.  “We have unleashed a plague of plastic upon the ocean,” he said, defiling nature in tragic ways.  Illegal and destructive fishing practices, along with harmful fisheries subsidies, were driving fish stocks to collapse, while greenhouse gasses were driving climate change and causing sea-level rise through ocean warming, threatening ocean life through acidification and deoxygenation.

The central conclusion was clear, he said:  To secure a future for our species, action must be taken now on the health of the ocean and on climate change.  With Goal 14 in place within the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement ratified, it was time to demonstrate fidelity to those two life-saving agreements.  Describing the mantra of the Ocean Conference as “human-induced problems have human-devised solutions”, he pledged that participants would work to advance Goal 14 targets of 2020, 2025 and 2030.  They would follow-up with diligence on commitments made, “all along holding ourselves responsible to bequeath a conserved and sustainably managed ocean to the stewards of the future”, he declared.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the collective focus this week would be on scaling up efforts to halt ocean degradation and reverse a cycle of decline.  Urgent action needed to be taken.  Noting that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, among other agreements, had been in place for some time, he said what was now needed was implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

“The issue of conserving and sustainably using our oceans is very complex, as oceans have a direct impact on poverty eradication, health, sustained economic growth, food security and creation of sustainable livelihoods and decent work,” he said.  At the same time, biodiversity and the marine environment must be protected and the impact of climate change addressed.  Political guidance from the high-level political forum that would be held on 10-18 July under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council would be critical for promoting integrated consideration of the Sustainable Development Goals.

He described the Ocean Conference as a unique place to raise awareness and to underscore solutions that must be put into place to ensure that the world’s oceans and seas remained a source of life and human well-being for generations.  The Call to Action that would be adopted by the Conference must be a cooperative effort that ensured a pooling of financial and technical resources as well as technology sharing and capacity-building, he said.

WU HONGBO, Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference and Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that without oceans and seas, there would be no life on the planet.  Yet, oceans faced a variety of threats, including climate change, marine pollution, extraction of marine resources, and erosion and destruction of marine and coastal habitats.  Member States had committed to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources through Sustainable Development Goal 14.  The message of the Call for Action was clear.  “The time to act is now,” he said, noting that its 22 specific actions promised to galvanize global commitments and partnerships.

He said the number of voluntary commitments was growing daily, and, importantly, covered all targets of Goal 14.  The coming days were a great opportunity to rally support at all levels, as the Conference was a platform for Governments, United Nations agencies, major groups and others to identify the ways and means to support implementation of Goal 14, by building on existing partnerships and stimulating new ones.  Special attention should focus on the means of implementation, such as capacity-building and enhanced financing, which was critical for small island developing States, least developed countries and developing nations alike.  With broad support from all stakeholders, the Conference would bring about solutions for saving the ocean and advancing implementation of Goal 14.

Partnership Dialogue

In the afternoon, the Ocean Conference held a partnership dialogue on the topic “Addressing marine pollution”.  Moderated by Elliott Harris, Head of the New York Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and co-chaired by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia, and Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and Environment of Norway, it featured a panel discussion by Nancy Wallace, Director, Marine Debris Program, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce; Kosi Latu, Director-General, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme; Peter Kershaw, Chair of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment; and Sybil Seitzinger, Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, University of Victoria, Canada.

Mr. PANDJAITAN called plastic and microplastic debris a major threat to marine and coastal diversity.  Such debris resulted mostly from solid waste management.  Summarizing Indonesia’s recently launched ocean policy as well as research initiatives, he said the country had come up with a plan of action that incorporated, among other pillars, behavioural change and reducing waste leakage.  He emphasized that plastics manufacturers must be involved in fighting marine pollution.  “We can get rid of this problem because we care and we can,” he said, underscoring the need for action at the national, regional and global level.

Mr. HELGESEN said marine litter was possibly the fastest-growing environmental problem as well as a shared challenge.  Providing an example, he said 30 plastic bags and other pieces of plastic debris were found this past winter in the stomach of a beached whale in Norway.  It was both possible and necessary to act, he said, describing a programme in his country that included waste management as a key component in fighting marine litter.  He said his country was also considering extended producer responsibility, and emphasized the need for a higher level of political attention and united action.

Mr. HARRIS said it was a painful fact that oceans, seas, lakes and other waterways were being damaged — or slowly being strangled — by human activity.  Most ocean pollution originated on land, he said, adding that by some estimates there were more microplastics in the world’s oceans than stars in the galaxy.  Many countries were taking courageous action, he said, citing a Canadian ban on microplastics in personal care products, a French restriction on plastic cutlery and a prohibition on plastic bags in some African countries.  More, however, needed to be done.

Ms. WALLACE said the world’s oceans were overflowing with man-made items that did not belong there, including disposable plastic bags, cigarette butts, derelict fishing nets and abandoned vessels.  Lost and discarded items threated health, safety and wildlife.  Marine debris was a complex global problem that called for a wide array of solutions, she said, the ultimate solution being preventing such debris from getting into the oceans in the first place.  Waste management offered a myriad of solutions, but every country had unique challenges in that regard.  Programmes to increase the value of waste would encourage its collection, she said, underscoring the paramount importance of sharing information on challenges and solutions.

Mr. LATU said that countries in the Pacific region — an area that was 98 per cent water and 2 per cent land, with the world’s most important tuna fisheries — had adopted a Cleaner Pacific Strategy, which addressed all forms of waste, including marine plastics and oil leaking from World War II shipwrecks.  Poor waste disposal, mainly on land but also at sea, contributed to the problem.  Research on fishing vessels found that 37 per cent of the waste dumped overboard was comprised of plastics, he said, emphasizing the need to effectively implement relevant international conventions.  Other solutions would include awareness-raising, encouraging recycling and improved practices on vessels.

Mr. KERSHAW said marine litter was a global problem with regional differences.  Microplastics came in many forms, from those used in toothpaste and facial scrubs to plastic resin beads and the secondary fragments of larger plastic items.  A further challenge was that many durable plastics contained modifying chemicals with toxicological properties.  Some solutions were relatively easy, such as removing microplastics from personal products in which they were not needed, he said.  Others, such textile fibres and vehicle tire dust, were more problematic.  Once it was known how microplastics were leaking into the oceans, then solutions — including partnerships — could be sought.

Ms. SEITZINGER discussed the impact of excessive use of nutrients, including toxic algae blooms, hypoxic regions and coral reef degradation.  Fertilizer and manure were the leading source of inorganic nitrogen, but its impact varied between regions.  No single solution was possible because there were multiple sources related to food and energy production, she said, adding that sewage treatment facilities should be designed to capture nitrogen and phosphorous for reuse.  Noting that billions of dollars were spent on subsidies to encourage the use of fertilizers, particularly in China and India, she said that fewer subsidies could lead to reduced fertilizer use with little impact on grain production.  She went on to suggest that consideration be given to laboratory-grown meat, which would reduce land, water and fertilizer use and eliminate manure production.

In the ensuing interactive debate, ministers, other senior officials and representatives of Member States and international organizations discussed the effects of marine pollution in different parts of the world, as well as measures being taken to address the problem.

MARION HENRY, Secretary of Resource and Development for the Federated States of Micronesia, said that, on his walks along the beach in his country, he saw fewer almonds than he did in his childhood, but many plastics.  Perhaps the easiest solution to the problem would be to stop debris from entering the oceans in the first place.  Comparing ocean debris to dumping garbage over a fence onto a neighbour’s backyard, he said “the ocean is our backyard”, and requested that other States be good neighbours in that regard.

NICOS KOUYIALIS, Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment of Cyprus, said pollution problems were more profound in enclosed or semi-enclosed seas, such as the Mediterranean.  Another serious problem was eutrophication due to treated and untreated domestic sewage and other discharges from land-based sources, he said, noting that his country, in that regard, had since the early 1980s maintained a “no drop of water in the sea” sewage policy.

KAMINA JOHNSON SMITH, Minister for Foreign affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, said marine pollution had severe consequences for her country.  Forging new partnerships and strengthening existing ones to protect and preserve the maritime space was a responsibility that Jamaica took seriously, she said, citing as an example its participation in the Global Ballast Water Management Project to address the transmission of potentially invasive species.

JOHN SILK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, said his country had recently banned the importation and use of single-use plastic bags, which had become more common than fish along its shores.  He added that the Pacific was also struggling with the legacy of events it did not cause, including naval shipwrecks, unexploded ordinance and radioactive contamination.

The representative of the Netherlands said his country’s positon was simple:  litter did not belong in the marine environment.  The Netherlands was committed to an integral approach that emphasized prevention, he said, noting that a ban on plastic bags at point of sale went into effect on 1 January 2016.

The representative of the Stiftelsen Stockholm International Water Institute emphasized the importance of engaging upstream sources of marine pollution.  Otherwise, she said, communities located well away from coastal areas might not feel motivated to take relevant action.

The representative of China said his country was taking a number of steps to address marine pollution, including improving urban sewage treatment systems and adhering to the principles of recycling.  At the international level, China advocated the sharing of successful experiences.  It was also striving to reduce fertilizer use while assessing what further measures would be required.

The representative of The Ocean Cleanup said his organization was developing advanced technology to collect existing marine debris through a system that involved natural ocean currents and a fleet of artificial coast lines.  Once deployed, it could clean up 50 per cent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years, he said, adding that it would be easy later on to develop spin-off systems that could intercept plastic debris before it could reach the ocean.

His counterpart from World Animal Protection said the issue of abandoned and lost fishing gear, also known as ghost fishing gear, must feature near the top of the agenda.  It represented 10 per cent of all marine debris, but it was the deadliest to marine life, and after overfishing it was most responsible for declining fish stocks, she said, inviting participants to support the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

Responding to the discussion, Ms. SEITZINGER said an opportunity existed to address the problem of nutrient pollution.  She added that the benefits of working together should always be present in people’s minds.

Mr. KERSHAW said it was encouraging to hear so many positive initiatives, adding however that better partnerships with industry were needed to deal with solid waste before it come become microplastics.

Mr. LATU said that, in devising solutions, it was important to remember that pollution knew no boundaries.  He added that while some countries seemed to have strong waste management policies, others needed to do more work in that regard.

Ms. WALLACE said she had never seen so much commitment and passion on the marine pollution issue.  The next step would be to turn plans into action.

Mr. PANDJAITAN said that, without action, there would be more plastic in the sea than fish.  No single country could work alone, he said, emphasizing the need to strengthen regional and international measures, with the international community acting at the United Nations level to a clear timeline.

Mr. HELGESEN said he took away from today’s meeting a number of important steps, including stronger enforcements of existing measures, the need to develop new and stronger international commitments to combat marine litter, a process to further harmonize measures to monitor marine debris and forging partnership along the entire plastics value chain to promote a circular economy.  Quoting the “famous philosopher” Elvis Presley, he appealed for a little less conversation and a little more action.

Also participating in the discussion were ministers, other senior officials and representatives of Estonia, Italy, Panama, Netherlands, Peru, Turkey, Indonesia, Algeria, Israel and Honduras, as well as the European Union.

Also taking the floor were representatives of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).