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UN meet sees blitz of pledges to protect ailing oceans

Humankind dumps about eight million tons of plastic into the ocean every year

Humans dump about eight million tons of plastic into the ocean every year.

A major UN conference on restoring the faltering health of the global oceans kicked off this week in Lisbon with a torrent of promises to expand marine protected areas, ban deep-sea mining and fight illegal fishing.

UN chief Antonio Guterres set the tone for the five-day meeting on Monday by warning that the world’s oceans are in deep crisis.

“Today we face what I would call an ocean emergency,” he told thousands of policymakers, experts and advocates, detailing how seas have been hammered by climate change and pollution.

“The ocean is not a garbage dump. It is not a source of endless looting. It is a fragile system on which we all depend.”

Surangel Whipps, Jr., president of the Pacific island state of Palau, has asked world leaders to join a moratorium on the mining of rare earths from the ocean floor.

“Deep sea mining jeopardizes the integrity of our ocean habitat and should be discouraged as much as possible,” he said, flanked by Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

Indigenous leader Debbie Ngawera-Packer, a member of the New Zealand Parliament, told conference participants that she had introduced a bill calling for such a moratorium in her country’s waters.

Companies looking to mine so-called polymetallic nodules containing manganese, cobalt and nickel say they are a greener source of minerals needed to build batteries for electric vehicles.

At least a third of wild fish stocks are overfished, said Kathryn Matthews, chief scientist at US-based NGO Oceana.

At least a third of wild fish stocks are overfished, said Kathryn Matthews, chief scientist at US-based NGO Oceana.

Scientists argue that seafloor ecosystems at depth are fragile and can take decades or more to heal once disturbed.

“Mining anywhere is known to have an environmental cost,” said Sylvia Earle, former chief scientist of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

‘No-take’ zones

“At least on land we can monitor, see and fix problems, and minimize damage. Six thousand meters (20,000 feet) below the surface, who’s watching?”

A so-called high-ambition coalition, which backed a proposal to set aside 30 percent of the planet’s land and ocean surface as protected areas by 2030, grew to 100 countries, British Foreign Secretary Zac Goldsmith announced in a side event. at.

Currently, less than 10 percent of the world’s oceans are protected.

The “30 X 30” plan could be the cornerstone of a treaty to be finalized at a UN biodiversity summit to be held in Montreal in December.

Nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in government, development bank and philanthropic funding to secure the protection of marine and terrestrial ecosystems in Colombia, as announced last week, could set the template for other countries.

Less than 10 percent of the world's oceans are currently protected

Currently, less than 10 percent of the world’s oceans are protected.

“In collaboration with scientists, we decided to consider 30 percent of our maritime area protected, and we have done so,” outgoing Colombian President Ivan Duque told AFP.

More than half of the newly protected marine areas will be “no-take” zones banned from fishing, mining, drilling or other extractive activities, he said.

The United States, countries of the European Union, Mexico, Canada, Japan and India have joined the 30 x 30 drive, while China, Russia, Indonesia and Brazil have yet to do so.

Steps were also taken on Monday to fight illegal fishing, another topic on the table at the long-delayed UN ocean conference, originally scheduled for April 2020.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden issued a national security memorandum to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and related labor abuse.

wreak havoc

The goal is to “ensure that the seafood entering the US market is caught in accordance with international and national regulations,” a senior official told reporters.

An International Trade Commission report shows that in 2019 the United States imported $2.4 billion worth of seafood from IUU fishing.

Microplastics are estimated to kill more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals each year

It is estimated that more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually by microplastics.

“The ocean is the most undervalued resource on our planet,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta told the conference, flanked by Portuguese President Antonio Costa co-host.

Oceans are home to 80 percent of life on Earth and generate 50 percent of the oxygen in the atmosphere.

They also absorb a quarter of the CO2 pollution and 90 percent of the excess heat from global warming, leaving the planet livable for life on land.

But there are costs associated with these services.

Seawater has become acidic, threatening the food chains in the water and the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon. Global warming has created massive sea heat waves that are killing precious coral reefs and increasing oxygen-deprived dead zones.

“We are just beginning to understand the extent to which climate change will harm ocean health,” said Charlotte de Fontaubert, the World Bank’s global leader for the blue economy.

What makes it worse is according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).


Sick oceans in ‘state of emergency’, UN chief says


© 2022 AFP

Quote: UN meeting sees massive pledges to protect distressed oceans (2022, June 28) retrieved June 28, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-blitz-pledges-ailing-oceans.html

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