Scientific collaboration and knowledge-sharing is essential


By Pita Ligaiula in Lisbon, Portugal

The United Nations Ocean Conference(UNOC2022) has heard scientific collaboration and knowledge-sharing is essential to protecting humanity’s shared ocean heritage.

Speaking at the UNOC2022, Nauru representative Margo Deiye highlighted the unique sustainable-development challenges facing her small island developing State pointed to its small size, over-dependence on imports and vulnerability to climate change.

She emphasised the ocean’s importance not just for ocean States, but for all of humanity.

Deiye has called for stronger cooperation in scientific data collection.

“The ocean is important not only for ocean States but for all humanity, the challenge of acidification and the financially consuming task of monitoring ocean chemistry”.

She also emphasised the need for a tax to help countries affected by such losses.

Deiye said the instrument on conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction(BBNJ) must enable the creation of cross-sectoral marine protected areas and provide for equitable sharing of marine genetic resources.

“All the countries that benefit from tuna must equally share the burden of tuna stock conservation,” she said, underscoring that “climate action equals ocean action.”

Minister for Culture, Environment and Marine Resources of French Polynesia, Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu, told the conference that the Non-Self-Governing Territory is committed to preserving a coastal zone for small-scale and subsistence fishing equivalent to the surface area of France.

He said that French Polynesians — the “peoples of the canoe” — are facing extreme weather threats due to climate change, a phenomenon to which they did not contribute.

Maamaatuaiahutapu stressed that they not be seen only as victims, as there is much opportunity in French Polynesia, which has prohibited all technology other than line fishing from its exclusive economic zone(EEZ).

“French Polynesia also works to protect sharks, turtles and manta rays — having created a marine protected area 5 million square kilometres in size — and has organised seasonal, sustainable fishing and prohibited access to certain areas to preserve nature.

“It also employs an approach to development alternative to one based purely on economic growth, including by improving living standards and creating solidarity between generations.Further, French Polynesia is committed to protecting all species of coral from 2022 and all coral ecosystems by 2030, along with preserving a coastal zone for small-scale and subsistence fishing equivalent to the surface area of France,” he said.

He added a call to make the high seas “the heritage of future generations”, rather than allowing a “free for all”.

Cook Islands representative, Euru Passfield said at the 2017 Ocean Conference, her country announced plans to dedicate its nearly 2 million-square-kilometre exclusive economic zone to protection, conservation and integrated management in the form of a marine park — Marae Moana.

She said since the establishment of this park, the Government has designated protected areas of 50 nautical miles around each of the country’s 15 islands, where all commercial extractive activities are restricted.

“Upcoming projects within Marae Moana include efforts to map the seafloor, monitor the ocean, strengthen the blue economy, implement traditional and small-scale conservation practices and address pollution”.

She went on to express concern over the environmental, social, cultural and health impacts of plastic pollution in the Cook Islands, spotlighting the fact that her country does not produce any plastic.

To remedy this issue, she called for concerted international effort towards establishing a binding international treaty to address plastic pollution. Adding that the traditional development framework “does not work for everyone” — as it is based on the premise that countries reduce vulnerability as wealth grows — she said that this is not the case for small island developing States and welcomed efforts to finalize and implement a multidimensional vulnerability index.

Pacific Ocean Commissioner and Forum Secretary General Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna, highlighted the existential threat posed by rising sea levels, underscored the primacy and centrality of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and called on all States to support the Forum’s Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change-related sea-level rise.

Puna also expressed hope that this year will see the finalisation of a global treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction(BBNJ).

He called on the international community to scale-up ocean finance for a sustainable blue economy to maximise the economic returns of Pacific fisheries and build ocean science, data and technological capability.

Puna emphasised the need to address nuclear safety and nuclear waste — recalling the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant — and called on every State with nuclear power plants to constantly strive for higher safety standards and find solutions for nuclear waste that do not include dumping radioactive material into the ocean.

He added that common sense compels questioning why treated water — if safe, as claimed — is not used for human purposes such as drinking, agriculture or washing.

Cristelle Pratt, Assistant Secretary-General for the Environment and Climate Action at the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS)noted the essential role of oceans in sustainable development

She said the international community must collectively stop jeopardising the Earth.

Pratt also called for urgent and sustained action to save the world’s ocean from overfishing, pollution, habitat degradation and climate change.

She said OACPS is committed to building a resilient fisheries sector, including by improving small-scale fisheries and combating illegal unreported fishing.

Highlighting the nexus between the twin global challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, Pratt said that must be tackled through ocean-based action.

She said OACPS stand ready to work together on this, highlighting its transformative pathway to ensure the sustainable and productive use of oceans.

Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) Michael Lodge, said in jurisdictional terms, the deep seabed is the largest part of the ocean, covering more than half of the ocean floor.

The Authority has managed this area since 1994, when the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea came into force, on the basis of equality between States and under a comprehensive legal regime designed to achieve the sustainable use of marine mineral resources.

“The Authority delivers on its unique mandate in full transparency, and the regime ensures equitable access to resources, along with the sharing of knowledge relating to the deep seabed,” he said.

Lodge emphasised that the Authority remains committed to playing its part to deliver targets under Goal 14, citing a 2021 independent report that stated that this commitment has already contributed to 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

He stressed the importance of recalling the Convention’s many successes, but noted that this “constitution for the ocean” — and the institutions established by it — face significant challenges as multilateralism is in retreat around the world and polarised actions threaten to widen divisions between States parties.

Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said that 200 million people in Asia and the Pacific depend on the ocean for their livelihood and that the region contains 71 per cent of the world’s coral reefs, 45 per cent of the world’s mangroves, 66 percent of the world’s fisheries production and 89 percent of its aquaculture production.

She said that, as marine pollution continues to intensify in the region, the Commission is helping local governments and organisations measure and monitor plastic waste within their cities using digital innovations such as artificial intelligence, satellite imaging, drones, citizen science and waste-flow monitoring.

Alisjahbana said the international community continues to face data challenges on Goal 14 indicators, as data is not evenly available or necessarily collected in a uniform, systematic manner.

She said that ESCAP has fully implemented a commitment made at the 2017 Ocean Conference to strengthen data partnerships for oceans in Asia and the Pacific.