Participants at the third Our Ocean Conference announced over 136 initiatives on protecting ocean areas, promoting sustainable fisheries, reducing marine pollution, addressing climate and the ocean, building capacity, supporting coastal communities, and mapping and further understanding the ocean. Financial commitments included more than US$5.24 billion in support and commitments to protect nearly four million square kilometers of the ocean.
The 2016 Our Ocean Conference brought together Heads of State and Government, scientists, business leaders, NGOs and other stakeholders to tackle ocean issues. The Conference took place from 15-16 September 2016, in Washington, DC, US.
On protecting ocean areas, Cambodia established its first marine protected area (MPA), which covers 405 square kilometers. The US established a marine monument of 12,725 square kilometers covering the New England Canyons and Seamounts. The UK designated a sustainable use MPA throughout the St. Helena’s 445,000 square kilometer maritime zone and a roadmap to determine a MPA around Ascension Island. Ecuador announced the creation of a no-take marine sanctuary in its Galápagos Islands Marine Reserve, an area with the largest concentration of sharks in the world. Colombia’s announcement to quadruple the Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary also aims to protect one of the world’s largest aggregations of sharks. Seychelles will establish a 400,000 square kilometer MP by 2020 through a debt swap. Malta designated nine new MPAs that cover 3,450 square kilometers, an area larger than the country itself.
Several commitments expanded existing areas, including the US expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will expand MPAs around each of its islands to 24 nautical miles, protecting an additional 184,948 square kilometers of its ocean waters. Other countries that announced commitments to create MPAs include Sri Lanka, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Morocco, Norway, Lebanon, Kuwait, the Republic of the Congo, New Caledonia and France.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in partnership with the Waitt Foundation and Blue Moon fund, committed US$15 million for the WCS MPA Fund, which aims to support efforts to meet or exceed the Aichi and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets of protecting 10% of the world’s ocean by 2020. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) committed US$33 million to the Fund, bringing its combined investment to US$48 million.
On promoting sustainable fisheries, the US reported on its Safe Ocean Network, which brings together 45 governments and organizations to combat illegal fishing. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) announced the entry into force of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), with Ghana, Madagascar and Senegal committing to ratify the Agreement and countries announcing commitments for training and implementation. FAO also announced US$500,000 for its new global program to implement the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication. The GEF, Conservation International (CI) and Rare announced the US$18 million Meloy Fund for Small-Scale Fisheries, an impact investment fund that will provide financial incentives for small-scale fishing communities to conserve coral reef ecosystems in Indonesia and the Philippines.
The US announced that some members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), including Argentina, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Switzerland and Uruguay, have committed to launch negotiations on an international agreement under the WTO to prohibit subsidies linked to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as well as subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity. Countries and other stakeholders announced a number of other commitments, from national plans to combat illegal fishing to support for regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and other region sustainable ocean initiatives.
On reducing marine pollution, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with the support of the GEF, announced a New Plastics Economy initiative to re-think and re-design plastic packaging and replace plastics with sustainable materials. The GEF and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced US$2 million to support the Trash Free Seas Alliance, which aims to prevent plastic from leaking into oceans. GEF and UNEP also announced a project to address nitrogen pollution in lakes and oceans. Several countries announced bans on the production and use of plastic bags. [US State Department Press Releases] [Our Ocean Press Releases] [US State Department Press Release on Commitments] [GEF Press Release] [WCS Press Release] [Event Website] [FAO Press Release on Agreement] [FAO Press Release on Director-General’s Comments]