20 January 2014
Blue Economy Summit
Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to congratulate the Government of Seychelles and the Government of the United Arab Emirates for convening this First Blue Economy Summit.
The Rio+20 Sustainable Development outcome document recognized the central role that oceans, seas and coastal areas play in sustainable development.
Today, the Abu Dhabi Blue Economy Summit is helping shed light on the many sides of this concept, what are the implications, the risks and the opportunities.
FAO is conscious of the importance of blue economy in meeting the sustainable development goals that will be set in the post-2015 development agenda. In particular, FAO recognizes the importance of the marine resources for world food security now, and even more in the future.
There are many good reasons why we need to push the blue agenda forward.
The health of our planet itself, our health and food security, depends on how we treat the blue world.
Climate change is already happening. We can see it in the increased violence and unpredictability of weather related events.
We have learned from and are still dealing with the consequences of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. And we are in full recovery mode in The Philippines, following the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.
Sea level rise is expected to worsen inundation, erosion and other coastal hazards, increasing salinity in most fertile delta areas in Asia, for example.
Climate change is also modifying the distribution and productivity of marine and freshwater species, is affecting biological processes and altering food webs.
It is clear that fishers, fish farmers and coastal inhabitants will bear the full force of the impacts of climate change. Among them, the most vulnerable fisheries-dependent communities will be the most affected.
So the implications of climate change for food security and livelihoods are profound.
Its impacts can be destructive, especially to small island developing states. Climate change is not only an urgent question for most of the SIDS: it is a question of survival.
But how we care or do not care for our oceans does not affect only small island states. It also has an impact on many developing countries and other coastal nations throughout the world.
More than 40% of the global population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast. Thirteen of the world’s 20 megacities lie along coasts. Nearly 700 million people live in low lying coastal areas less than 10 meters above sea level. The livelihoods of 12 percent of the world’s population depend on the fisheries and aquaculture sector.
We cannot keep using marine and aquatic resources as if they were endless. Today, nearly one third of global fish stocks are over exploited
And we cannot keep using our oceans as a waste pool. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a sad reminder of where our action has led us.
By acting this way we risk losing precious biodiversity. Over 80% of the 232 marine eco-regions reported the presence of invasive species which is the second most significant cause of biodiversity loss on a global scale.
The oceans hold many treasures that we simply cannot afford to lose.
As I said before, marine and aquatic resources play an important role in food security. On average, 17 percent of the animal protein that we eat comes from fisheries and aquaculture.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In some regions, the introduction of proper fisheries management schemes has restored fish stocks. In fact, FAO and the World Bank estimate that the potential economic gain from restoring fish stocks and reducing fishing capacity to an optimal level is to the order of US$ 50 billion per year.
Despite the number of commitments and programs launched, overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries are still at alarming levels.
We need to take a step further. We need to do more individually, collectively and we need to stimulate others as well. We not only need to commit, we need to act.
Implementing national, regional and global blue economy strategies will help reduce stressors and restore the functions and structure of aquatic ecosystems for the sustainable use of oceans and waterways.
FAO is ready to play an active role in this process.
Fisheries and aquaculture are of course, traditional areas of FAO assistance to our nearly 197 Members.
But we are now taking this support to another level and with a much greater integration to the wider context it is inserted in.
Our commitment has led us to create the FAO Blue Growth Initiative.
It provides a global framework through which FAO will assist countries to develop and implement blue economy agenda.
The initiative aims to foster partnerships and act as a catalyst for policy development, investment and innovation in Support of Food Security, Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Management of Aquatic Resources.
Ladies and gentlemen
To end I want to emphasize that blue economy is not an appendix to the sustainable development agenda. It is a central part of it.
And we have no time to lose in tackling it.
You can count on FAO. Thank you for your attention.