New York, 26 January 2017 – The United Nations is set to convene the The Ocean Conference from 5 – 9 June 2017 to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14. The Conference, to be held at UN headquarters in New York, is seen as a breakthrough for global commitment to reverse the decline in the health of the ocean with a strong focus on solutions and effective engagement by all stakeholders.
Among the participants expected to attend, the private sector will be important contributors to the partnerships and innovations needed to collectively advance action for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14). SDG 14 contains ten targets, addressing: marine pollution; marine and coastal ecosystems; ocean acidification; overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and destructive fishing practices; conservation; harmful fisheries subsidies; economic benefits for small island developing states and least developed countries; and, as means of implementation, increasing scientific knowledge, market access for small-scale artisanal fishers, and implementing international law, among others.
While the contributions by global private sector actors will be crucial, the voices of the private sector from small island developing States (SIDS) are equally important. From shipping, fisheries, aquaculture, cruise and coastal tourism to renewable energy, SIDS private sector are active on the ground in advancing ocean related national sustainable development goals.
With an estimated “gross marine product” of some USD 2.5 trillion per year, the ocean is critical to global economic development. For SIDS, ocean sustainability is an issue that cuts across the economic, social and environmental dimensions of their national sustainable development goals. However, despite its perceived vastness and wealth of resources, the ocean is under extreme pressure through environmental degradation, overfishing, climate change and pollution. Such challenges will impact SIDS well into the future and the private sector in these countries is also certain to feel these impacts acutely.
Among the challenges, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) adds up to an estimated 11-26 million tonnes (12-28%) of fishing world-wide while over 60% of fish stocks are fully fished. Further adding to pressures on fish stocks, an estimated 40% of global catch consists of bycatch. With high rates of unsustainable fishing entire species such as the Pacific Bluefin tuna and swordfish are now highly endangered with numbers at an all-time low. In addition, marine ecosystems are being heavily impacted by climate change impacts ranging from coral reef decline to changes in migration patterns. These multifaceted challenges do not bode well for island economies especially those that are highly dependent on the fishing industry and other ocean related activities.
While the challenges are significant, the solutions are also at hand. Global efforts to support effective implementation of the outcomes from The Ocean Conference, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and other global agreements including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals will have a transformative impact on returning the ocean to a sustainable path. Regional initiatives including the Micronesian and Caribbean Challenge initiatives and the 2030 Pacific Ocean Partnership are showing the multi-stakeholder collaboration which includes the private sector are yielding important gains for ocean conservation in island nations. Likewise, the UN SIDS x Parley Call to Action for the Oceans among others, is as an opportunity for SIDS to rally together in targeting ocean plastic pollution and set a tone of unity and action towards The Ocean Conference.
In and of itself the private sector is not a panacea for reversing the worrying trends in the ocean, but as crucial partners in advancing sustainable solutions, the private sector stands to contribute significantly to the innovative approaches needed to halt and reverse ocean decline. Global problems often calls for global solutions but for island nations, global problems also calls for local solutions and local private sector actors can be part of the solution.
The Ocean Conference will coincide with the commemoration of World Environment Day on 5 June and World Oceans Day on 8 June. For accreditation to participate visit: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/oceanconference/
Feature Photo: Wikimedia Commons Article Photo: Mike McCoy, 2001