In the morning of 6 June, the Ocean Conference held a partnership dialogue on the topic “Managing, protecting, conserving and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems”. Moderated by Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and co-chaired by Tommy Esang Remengesau Jr., President of Palau, and Silvia Velo, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea, Italy, it featured a panel discussion by Lin Shanqing, Deputy Administrator, State Oceanic Administration, China; Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity; Jake Rice, Chief Scientist Emeritus, Fisheries and Oceans Canada; and Cyrie Sendashonga, Global Director, Program and Policy Group, International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Opening the discussion, Mr. REMENGESAU said Governments were faced with the “monumental” task of developing a new model of ocean governance to replace a failed one that had allowed unlimited human activity to damage marine ecosystems. There was now the forum and the obligation to develop a sustainable approach to the management, protection, conservation and restoration of marine and coastal ecosystems. He encouraged delegates to keep an open mind and maintain transparency in implementing the sometimes contradictory — but necessary — objectives. For Palau, the best option was to create a large marine protected area, setting aside 80 per cent of its waters — 190 square miles of ocean — as a marine sanctuary, with the remaining 20 per cent available for domestic fishing. Within that setting, Palau still had to deal with management, monitoring, protection and restoration. In line with the Convention on Biological Diversity, stakeholders must work together to establish by 2020 an effectively managed set of marine protected areas, beyond areas of national jurisdiction, covering 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas.
“We should increase our ambition” and protect at least 30 per cent of such areas by 2030, he said, noting that States must also consider sustainable development and create opportunities for food security initiatives by enhancing small-scale and artisanal fisheries, as well as building tourism and aquaculture. Multi-country and multi-stakeholder partnerships must tackle illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, human and drug trafficking and harmful fisheries subsidies. He urged all States to ratify the Port State Measures Agreement, stressing that connections must be made to funding mechanisms — such as the Green Climate Fund, Global Environmental Facility, World Bank and Asian Development Bank — with new and unique funding mechanisms focused solely on oceans identified. He objected to funding mechanisms that were impossible for least developed countries and small island developing States to access, based on a perceived lack of capacity.
Ms. ROJAS-URREGO said the topic under discussion went to the heart of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Conservation management and restoring marine ecosystems were prerequisite for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 as well as other Goals. Many communities, especially in developing countries, depended on marine ecosystems for food and water. Such ecosystems also played a critical role in the context of climate change by mitigating disasters and serving as carbon sinks, she said. However, marine ecosystems were being lost at an unprecedented rate, she added, noting for example that 90 per cent of coral reefs had suffered damage. Measures were being taken by States and stakeholders, but there was still a long way to go, she said, adding that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was an opportunity to put the preservation of marine ecosystems at the heart of development.
Mr. LIN said the Government of China paid great attention to environmental protection, with the marine space being a critical part of its overall environmental plan. Since the turn of the century, China had promulgated and amended ocean-related laws and regulation, creating a comprehensive legal system for marine protection. It also sought to move towards a payment system through which the State regulated royalties, with revenue going towards conservation efforts. The percentage of marine protected areas and reserves was being increased, he said, adding that China was also introducing an ecological monitoring system that went beyond measuring pollution alone.
Ms. PAŞCA PALMER said conservation efforts had failed to put a dent on the loss of species or the degradation of marine ecosystem functions. The consequences would be severe, particularly for those who relied on the oceans for their livelihood and nutrition. Noting that adherence to the Convention on Biological Diversity was near-universal, she said Goal 14 represented a critical opportunity to build on political will and experience. An integrated and holistic approach was a must, however. She said the world was well on the way to achieving the target of conserving at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, noting that since the Convention came into force in 1993, such areas had increased 10 fold to 5.7 per cent today. But there remained much to do to improve the management of those areas and to ensure that they were representative of many ocean ecosystems. In that regard, the Sustainable Ocean Initiative produced by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity addressed the question of capacity-building, especially for developing countries. Going forward, she emphasized the critical importance of having clear targets and political commitments, as well as basing actions on a scientific understanding of the ecological and biological value of marine biodiversity.
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