World Oceans Day Raises Awareness on Plastic Pollution, SDG 14
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The world celebrated World Oceans Day under the theme, ‘Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.' Events around the world aimed to promote the prevention of plastic pollution in the world's oceans, and highlighted the role of healthy oceans in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 calls to "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development."

World Oceans Day8 June 2016: The world celebrated World Oceans Day under the theme, ‘Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.’ Events around the world aimed to promote the prevention of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, and highlighted the role of healthy oceans in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 calls to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”

Plastic pollution in the oceans negatively impacts aquatic animals, who mistake the microbeads for food, and also affects human health and pollutes waterways, the UN noted in a press release.

In a message on the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for urgent action “on a global scale” to alleviate pressures facing the oceans and to protect them from “future dangers that may tip them beyond the limits of their carrying capacity.” He underscored the role of healthy oceans in achieving the 2030 Agenda and in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“The ocean is essential to moving forward,” said UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova, stressing the integral role of the ocean in implementing the 2030 Agenda, eradicating extreme poverty and sustaining livelihoods, ensuring no one is left behind and regulating the climate. She highlighted the development of national capacities in marine scientific research as a precondition for understanding and preserving the ocean and its resources, and said UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) will support governments in implementing SDG 14.

The “importance of the oceans cannot be overstated,”said Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Executive Secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, underscoring the role of oceans in a healthy planet, and noting rising threats to marine ecosystems from overexploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, marine pollution and climate change. He recommended coupling actions on SDG 14 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets with “tangible on-the-ground action,” such as expanding marine protected areas (MPAs) and factoring the health of the oceans into daily decisions related to food, medicine, waste and recreation.

According to Andrew Hudson, UN Development Programme (UNDP), “We have a pretty good grasp on what we need to do, to achieve SDG 14. Our challenge is to do more, do it better, and do it sooner.” In an article for the Inter Press Service, he analyzes actions needed to achieve SDG 14 targets. To reduce marine debris and nutrient pollution (target 14.1), he recommends transformational change in nutrient and solid waste management across sectors and governance levels towards a circular economy. To address IUU fishing, overfishing and weak fisheries governance (target 14.4), he recommends reducing the proportion of overexploited stocks by an average of six percent annually and IUU fishing by four percent annually by 2020. To achieve target 14.5 on ten percent of the ocean conserved as MPAs by 2020, the world will have to increase its 2004-2014 rate five-fold, moving from 0.26% more ocean area under MPAs annually to 1.2%. Destructive fisheries subsidies that lead to overexploitation will need to be reduced to nearly zero through World Trade Organization (WTO) mediated processes, to achieve target 14.6 on prohibiting such subsidies, Hudson argues. He also observes that: progress on the Paris Agreement on climate change will contribute to minimizing and addressing ocean acidification (target 14.2); and international community support can help small island developing States (SIDS) and the least developed countries (LDCs) implement blue economy strategies to achieve target 14.7.

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) highlighted the declaration of a marine sanctuary in Ecuador that is home to the world’s greatest concentration of sharks. The 18,000 square mile sanctuary in the Galapagos Islands’ archipelago is roughly the size of Switzerland, and was previously targeted by pirate fishers interested in shark fins for the Asian market. Fishing, mining and drilling for oil will be prohibited in the sanctuary, CMS reports.

Member countries of the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF) celebrated the Day under the theme, ‘Save the Coral Triangle: Stop Plastic Pollution.’ Observing that five countries (China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam) are responsible for approximately 60% of marine pollution from plastic waste, the Initiative aims to raise awareness on the threats posed by plastics and microplastics in the Coral Triangle and the Asia-Pacific, and urges citizens to reduce the use of plastic.

Climate change, ecosystem degradation, overfishing, and pollution threaten the ocean’s services, including food and job security, said the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). IUCN cited a a finding that by 2050, the oceans will have more plastic than fish, if current trends continue. IUCN recommends partnerships within and across countries to close the gap in sustainable management of fisheries and ocean resources.

A report published by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Pacific Community (SPC), WorldFish and The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) highlights major threats facing the region’s food security, along with potential opportunities. ‘Climate change and Pacific Island Food Systems’ examines four possible development pathways to test and guide policy making to enhance resilience and strengthen adaptation to climate change among fishers and farmers in the Pacific region. The report makes three main recommendations for responding to climate change in the Pacific: Conduct national assessments of the vulnerability of agriculture in Pacific Island countries and territories to climate change and identify, for example, the implications for food security and livelihoods from projected changes in production, population and urbanization; Identify research to be done in each country to implement priority adaptations based on, for example, projected food needs of rural and urban populations and existing production methods and capacity, including traditional knowledge; and Strengthen food systems research for the region, for example, by creating effective partnerships between national research and extension agencies, farmers’ networks, NGOs and scientific institutions to improve national capacity to carry out research, and by providing farmers and fishing communities with climate services to guide their investments and activities.

Events in New York, US, included: the arrival of Hokule’a, a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe from the Pacific; the announcement of the winners of the World Oceans Day Oceanic Photo competition; a ‘Voyaging to a Sustainable Planet: A Talk Story Uniting Leadership on Oceans’ event that discussed the UN’s ocean agenda; and the lighting of the Empire State Building in white, blue and purple to represent the layers of the ocean. UNESCO-IOC hosted an event highlighting the role of the ocean in regulating climate, a lecture on ocean acidification, a debate on ocean science and a roundtable on the ocean as a critical part of the climate solution. [UN Press Release] [UNESCO-IOC Press Release] [World Oceans Day Website] [UNDP Article] [UN Secretary-General Message] [UNESCO Director-General Message] [UN Oceans Website] [CMS Feature Article] [CTI-CFF Press Release] [IUCN Commentary] [CCAFS Report]

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