The Pacific Islands have taken to the global stage to call for more investment for Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.

The ocean is at the heart of Pacific Island life. Alarmed by the multiple dire crises threatening our ocean, Pacific Islands are calling for improved international efforts at all levels to improve and sustain the health, productivity and resilience of our ocean.

At the opening of the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal today, the Pacific Islands Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) concerns were voiced by the President of Palau, Surangel Whipps, Jr.

He stressed the need for sustainable, and responsible, public and private investment in our Ocean.

“The Seventh Our Ocean Conference in Palau in April this year was an immense success in addressing the gaps and the challenges and the full potential the ocean has to offer including ocean-based economies. We look forward to the pledges and commitments coming on stream sooner rather than later,” stated President Whipps.

“Of all the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 14 is by far the least funded, representing only 0.01% of all SDG funding, less than 2% from Green Climate Fund (GCF) and only 0.7% of Global Environmental Facility (GEF). We must attract and retain sustainable and responsible public and private investment, including foreign direct investment through blending, guarantees and other innovative financial instruments, paying particular attention to women and youth.”

Also, of serious concern for the PSIDS is plastic pollution.

The Pacific contributes less than 1.3% of mismanaged plastic pollution yet is grossly and disproportionately affected by its impacts. Every day approximately eight million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans with approximately 12 million tonnes of plastic being poured into our ocean every year. Based on current projections, there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish by 2050.

The PSIDS has welcomed the decision to convene an intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an internationally legally binding instrument on plastic pollution that includes the marine environment.

“This instrument must take into account the role played by all stakeholders throughout the full plastics lifecycle and recognise the need for global intervention at each stage.”

The importance of preserving marine ecosystems and biodiversity both within and beyond national jurisdiction was also stressed to the global community by the PSIDS.

Treasured ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass, and coral reefs are essential but under threat from within and beyond island shores. Preserving marine ecosystems has multiple benefits relating to climate change, food security, and resilience to coastal erosion.

“Pacific Small Islands Developing States support the adoption of a strong international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) which allows for holistic planning and management of the ocean and its biodiversity,” stated the President of Palau.

“We must accept the need for transformative change aimed at halting and reversing the decline in the health of ocean ecosystems and biodiversity and protecting and restoring its resilience and ecological integrity.”

Our Large Ocean Island States will continue to amplify their Pacific voice across the second UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal through the different Interactive Dialogues that will take place across eight different issues.