As of 31 May 2017, the UN Ocean Conference’s Registry of Voluntary Commitments lists 434 commitments.
In advance of the Conference, governments, UN entities and other stakeholders have showcased work on plastic pollution, bycatch, aquatic invasive species, the blue economy and seamounts.
They have also highlighted: the linkages of SDG 14 to other Goals and targets, including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets; connections between the ocean and life on land (SDG 15); as well as between the ocean and freshwater (SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation).
31 May 2017: In advance of the UN Ocean Conference, governments, UN entities and other stakeholders continued to register voluntary commitments and showcase work in support of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal on life below water (SDG 14). Outputs have focused on plastic pollution, bycatch, aquatic invasive species, the blue economy and seamounts. They have also highlighted: the linkages of SDG 14 to other Goals and targets, including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets; connections between the ocean and life on land (SDG 15); as well as between the ocean and freshwater (SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation).
As of 31 May 2017, the UN Ocean Conference’s Registry of Voluntary Commitments lists 434 commitments. According to the Conference’s third Voluntary Commitments Weekly Digest, the newest additions to the registry represent commitments from governments (14), intergovernmental organizations (10), UN entities (12), NGOs (12), private sector (4), civil society (2), academic institutions (4), scientific (2), philanthropic organization (1) and partnerships (1). Among the announced commitments, the Government of Pakistan initiated the establishment of its first marine protected area (MPA), which will support a variety of species including corals, mangroves, fisheries, dolphins, whales, sea turtles and endemic reptiles. Belgium registered a commitment to prepare a national action plan to reduce damage from ships’ ballast waters. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) committed to enhance the conservation of whales in the Pacific region through a five-year management plan. The Plastic Bank committed to promoting the sustainable use of plastic through a circular economy and responsible consumerism, with the broader aim of alleviating ocean plastic and global poverty. The Plastic Bank will accept plastic waste as currency and be sustained through the use of “social plastic,” which the initiative describes as plastic purchased by socially and environmentally conscious brands that will pay a price premium for social plastic’s sustainability benefits. The International Chamber of Shipping committed to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and their impact on the ocean from the international shipping sector.
The Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) issued a notification highlighting its contributions to the Ocean Conference. To raise high-level political awareness on the Cancun Declaration on mainstreaming the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity for well-being, and to facilitate achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the SDGs on marine and coastal biodiversity, the CBD Secretariat will convene and co-convene a number of events alongside the Conference. These events will address: how marine and coastal biodiversity can provide solutions and contribute to the future we want, including sustainable oceans; marine pollution; ocean acidification; cross-sectoral regional cooperation to support SDG 14 implementation; national capacity and empowerment of indigenous peoples and local communities to implement SDG 14; and the mainstreaming of biodiversity in fisheries for human well-being, among others.
On the ocean-land connection, the UN highlighted efforts by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to conserve the marine environment in Trinidad and Tobago. These projects underscore the “ridge-to-reef connection” by highlighting linkages between life on land and life below water, and supporting efforts to jointly achieve marine conservation, forest management and sustainable livelihoods. One such initiative is a GEF project to protect female sea turtles that come to the island to lay eggs every year, while also addressing bycatch issues through alternative fishing methods. The project aims to empower local communities to co-manage these natural resources and enhance local livelihoods through ecotourism and other activities.
On the connections between oceans and freshwater, UN-Water, UN-Oceans and the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management are organizing an event on the benefits of achieving SDG 14 and SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation). The event is titled, ‘Joining hands to help achieve SDGs 6 and 14: a win-win for freshwater and oceans.’
On bycatch, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Management Commission (WCPFC), launched the Bycatch Management Information System (BMIS). The open resource provides information on bycatch mitigation and management in oceanic tuna and billfish fisheries, with the aim of contributing to responsible, efficient and sustainable tuna production and biodiversity conservation. The BMIS shares information on bycatch by species group, fishing gear and mitigation technique and provides guides and references on safe release and species identification. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) under the Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project, which is funded by the GEF, provided financial support for the project.
On plastic pollution, the 2017 celebration of Coral Triangle Day aimed to raise awareness on the importance of tackling plastic pollution and protecting the ocean across the six member countries of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. The Day’s activities were focused on the theme, ‘Curbing Marine Debris: Reduce Your Plastic Waste,’ and emphasized that plastic in the ocean primarily originates from land-based uses. It highlighted that simple actions can change consumer behavior and reduce plastic pollution in the ocean.
CTI-CFF signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Pacific Rim Innovation and Management Exponents, Inc. (Primex) on cooperation to support the CTI-CFF. The MoU will support a tri-national workshop on the establishment of a sea turtle MPA network and monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) system in the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion (SSME).
On aquatic invasive species, Palau held a national consultation on draft regulations on aquatic biosecurity and biofoul management. Palau has increased its freshwater and marine aquaculture industry to reduce pressure on its wild marine fish and other marine organisms. According to FAO, aquaculture is a source of biological invasions because organisms raised may be aquatic invasive species and diseases in these organisms can also spread to native species. Other invasive species spread via ships’ ballast water. The consultation discussed draft regulations measures to address these sources of aquatic invasive species and ensure protection of the country’s marine environment. According to FAO, which has provided support to Palau in developing the regulations, the regulations are expected to be finalized, adopted and implemented.
On the blue economy, the Government of Cabo Verde adopted the Blue Growth Charter, a framework for the development of a sustainable ocean economy. The Blue Growth Charter aims to change Cabo Verde’s approach to economic opportunities through legislation and investment in the blue economy. The approach would include cooperation across government ministries and partnership with local communities to strengthen the fisheries and tourism sector and help artisanal fishers to preserve their catch to reduce waste and enhance livelihoods through market connections, among other actions.
On ocean seamounts, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has launched its third scientific expedition to explore life on undersea mountains, know as seamounts. According to IUCN, seamounts play an important role in maintaining ocean health and supporting fish stocks, and are home to many slow-growing, slow-reproducing species that are highly vulnerable to fishing practices like bottom trawling. The three-week expedition in the Walters Shoal ABNJ (area beyond national jurisdiction) aims to better understand connections between seamounts and surrounding ecosystems, as well as to inform discussions towards an implementing agreement to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). [Voluntary Commitments] [Voluntary Commitments Weekly Digest Issue 3] [CBD Notification] [UN Feature Story on GEF Sea Turtle Project] [UN Water Event] [FAO Press Release on BMIS] [BMIS Website] [CTI-CFF Press Release on CTI Day] [WWF Press Release] [Coral Triangle Day Website] [CTI Press Release on MoU] [FAO Press Release on Aquatic Biosecurity] [FAO Press Release on Blue Growth Charter] [IUCN Press Release] [IUCN Webpage on Walters Shoal Expedition] [SDG Knowledge Story on Agreement on Call for Action]