20 Jun 2018 - This year’s World Oceans Day, observed annually on 8 June, featured the release of publications and the launch of campaigns to tackle plastic pollution. The Day convened under the theme, ‘Beat Plastic Pollution.’ Also this month, on 5 June, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) marked the first ‘International Day for the Fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing.’
In conjunction with World Oceans Day, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment), the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Pacific Community (SPC), the University of the South Pacific, the UK Government and Climate Analytics Impact project released the ‘Pacific Marine Climate Change Report Card 2018.’ The report card summarizes the impacts of climate change on Pacific islands’ coasts and seas and provides suggestions on how they could respond. The report explains that pollution and marine waste, over-exploitation and overfishing, invasive species and other threats are magnifying the effects of climate change, which is already placing ocean dependent communities at risk. The report calls for flexible management systems and adaptation projects to build climate resilience and identifies community engagement as fundamental to successful climate action. The report card also recommends reducing pressures from coastal development and population growth.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and its partners launched a global ‘Ocean Action Campaign’ that invites volunteerism towards implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal on life below water (SDG 14). The campaign aims to increase action on voluntary commitments pledged at the 2017 UN Ocean Conference as well as on new commitments in support of SDG 14. The campaign also encourages individuals to that change their consumption patterns and behavior to support achievement of SDG 14, including by reducing use of single-use plastics. The Ocean Action Hub will support the Campaign in tracking implementation of commitments.
Also for World Oceans Day, the UN Global Compact (UNGC) launched the Sustainable Ocean Business Action Platform, which aims to develop a business leadership framework for ocean, sea and marine resources. Launching the Platform, UNGC recognized the importance of addressing threats to the world’s oceans, such as overfishing, marine litter and acidification, and it recognized the ocean’s contribution to achieving all 17 SDGs.
The World Bank, Virtual Educa, Discovery Education, The Smithsonian, Intel Corporation and other partners launched ‘Think Blue.’ The initiative aims to support innovation in ocean education and lifelong learning on topics related to the ocean, such as marine conservation, plastic pollution management, and advocacy and information and communications technology (ICT) applications for the ocean.
In a statement, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underscored the ocean’s role in regulating the global climate and providing essential ecosystem services but cautioned that the oceans’ ability to provide these services is threatened by unsustainable use, pollution and climate change. Guterres highlighted the challenges of plastic pollution, reminding the world that “unless we change course, plastic waste could soon outweigh all the fish in the oceans.” He urged collective and individual action to reduce marine pollution.
Further, an ocean plastic-cleaning machine will collect marine debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area between California and Hawaii, the US, which contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. The majority of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from abandoned or lost fishing gear, often from illegal fishing vessels. This “ghost gear” kills over 100,000 whales, dolphins and seals annually. The machine is predicted to collect approximately 40,000 metric tonnes, or half of the pollution in the patch, within five years. Dutch inventor Boyan Slat developed the machine.
Also on healthy oceans but in a separate observance, FAO led celebration of the first ‘International Day for the Fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing,’ on 5 June 2018. The Day recognizes efforts to combat illegal fishing and marks the date, in 2016, when the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) entered into force.