Governments responsible for 40 percent of the world’s coastlines have pledged to end overfishing, restore dwindling fish populations and stop the flow of plastic pollution into the seas in the next 10 years.
The leaders of the 14 nations yesterday set out a series of commitments that mark the world’s biggest ocean sustainability initiative, in the absence of a UN treaty on marine life.
Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal — have vowed to end harmful subsidies that contribute to overfishing, a key demand of environmentalists.
They would also aim to eliminate illegal fishing through better enforcement and management, and to minimize bycatch and discards, as well as implementing fisheries plans based on scientific advice.
Each of the nations, members of the High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy, has also pledged to ensure that all the areas of ocean within its exclusive economic zone are managed sustainably by 2025.
That amounts to an area of ocean roughly the size of Africa.
“Humanity’s well-being is deeply intertwined with the health of the ocean. It sustains us, stabilizes the climate and leads to greater prosperity,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said. “For too long we have perceived a false choice between ocean protection and production. No longer. We understand the opportunities of action and the risks of inaction, and we know the solutions. Building a sustainable ocean economy is one of the greatest opportunities of our time.”
“Australians have always had a deep connection to the ocean. It is an integral part of who we are: our culture, lives and livelihoods. When I speak to children in schools in Australia, pollution destroying our oceans is what they talk to me about,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “Along with the Ocean Panel Leaders, we are committing to sustainably manage 100 percent of our ocean areas by 2025 and we encourage other world leaders to join us.”
Research has found that if oceans were sustainably managed, they could provide six times more food. Economists calculate that for every US$1 invested in sustainable oceans, there is about US$5 return in economic, social, environmental and health benefits, and that sustainably managing the oceans would create about 12 million new jobs.
The 14 world leaders want other nations to join the panel, to create a global sustainable ocean plan that they said could also have a major influence on the climate.
One-fifth of the reductions in emissions needed to meet the Paris climate agreement could come from the oceans by improving their ability to absorb carbon and by investing in technologies such as offshore wind, the panel said.
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