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Sustainable fisheries and climate change at Day 2 #OurOcean

Our Ocean Conference Family Photo.
HSH Prince Albert of Monaco stressed the need to seek out science-based solutions and innovative solutions to our most pressing ocean challenges.
The interesting and wide-ranging Sustainable Blue Economy panel was one of two new action areas introduced at this year’s Our Ocean.

After the downpours accompanying the first day of Our Ocean, a much more typical, warming Mediterranean sun greeted Conference attendees for the second day of the event. Click here to see our blog wrap-up of the Our Ocean Day 1 event.

Friday morning’s keynote address was delivered by His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. The Prince spoke about the challenges and opportunities in the Mediterranean, including climate change and its effects on marine resources, marine pollution, damage to marine habitats, efforts at awareness raising and possibilities to develop ecotourism in the region. He particularly appreciated the emphasis on the challenges faced by small island developing states at this Conference, and stressed how important it is for their voices to be heard at international fora such as this.

HSH Prince Albert also recalled the previous day’s discussion about marine plastics, which were accompanied by such powerful and worrying imagery. He spoke about concrete efforts by his Oceanographic Institute to address this concern in the Mediterranean and the joint work currently underway with Malta in 2018 to support their efforts to reduce plastics reaching the ocean.  Once again, he stressed the need to seek out science-based solutions and innovative solutions to our most pressing ocean challenges.

Maritime security and Blue Economy are the two new action areas introduced at this year’s event. The interesting talks on Maritime Security took place on Day 1, while the Blue Economy opened Day 2’s session as the first panel discussion. The scene was set by Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency and by moderated Pascal Lamy, former Member of the EU Commission and former Director-General of the WTO.

Interesting presentations followed, examining various aspects of the Blue Economy.  Naval Energies spoke about the future of cleaner energy, noting that with oceans covering 70 % of our planet and two-thirds of the population residing close to coastal areas, the oceans are an obvious choice for producing renewable energy. Maria Damanaki, the Global Managing Director for Oceans at the Nature Conservancy noted how the last decade has been marked by real strides in moving ahead to safeguard our oceans. She made a plea to now focus on solutions, and for “Friends of the Oceans”, “Friends of the Fish” and “Friends of the Fishermen” to work together on joint global policies and activities that will strengthen our ocean governance.

The second panel of the day was dedicated to an action area especially dear to the heart of FAO Fisheries – Sustainable Fisheries. Mauritius’ Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, Premdut Koonjoo, reminded participants that “Oceans are key to life”, especially for island nations like his, but he also stressed the long list of challenges felt most strongly by islands such as his, including rapid ocean warming, ocean acidification and coral bleaching.

Minister Koonjoo went on to add that international agreements and collaboration are crucial for island nations and small island developing states (SIDS), all of which fully support rapid implementation of SDG 14.

The panel of Sustainable Fisheries discussed one of the Conferences’s six action areas at Friday morning’s session.
Speaking at the Our Ocean panel on Sustainable Fisheries, FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva called the FAO Port State Measures Agreement the most effective tool we have to tackle IUU fishing.

The Our Ocean Conference is accompanied by stunning, underwater images of life below water.
Former US Secretary of State John Kerry: When we started this back in 2014, it was hard to convince the foreign policy community why oceans should be considered a foreign policy issue. Today, the link is better understood.
Our Ocean 2017 is hosted on the Mediterranean island of Malta, just outside its fortress-city capital, Valletta.
President Tommy Remengesau of Palau announces that Our Ocean 2020 will be held in his Pacific island nation.
Karmenu Vella, European Commission Member responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries announces a record high of 6 billion euro in pledges destined to strengthen ocean governance around the world.

He and other island nations welcome the growth of ocean-based industry, which is expected to play an increasingly important role in the future. He pointed to examples such as aquaculture and ocean and wave energy.

Portugal’s Oceans Minister, Ana Paula Vitorino, spoke of her nation’s past as a seafaring nation and its deep connection with oceans. She also stressed her country’s interest in hosting the next UN Ocean Conference in 2020. Minister Vitorino also spoke about innovative actions Portugal is taking to reverse the damage of ocean pollution, such as teaming up with Portuguese fishermen and women for ocean clean-up actions.

Also speaking on the panel was FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva, reminding Conference attendees to remember the special role of small-scale fisheries communities, the fishermen and women who comprise 90% of capture fisheries – with over 90% of that group living in developing countries. FAO works to strengthen those communities through implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries. He also highlighted joint work between FAO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) on decent work in the fisheries sector, and the eradication of slave labour and forced labour on fishing vessels. He announced that increased commitments would be placed on this joint work.

FAO’s Director-General also stressed the important of eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated  (IUU) fishing, and noted that the FAO Port State Measures Agreement is the most effective tool we have to tackle IUU fishing. He announced more FAO resources directed towards this important work to further strengthen Port State Measures, and called upon new countries to join the treaty.

The Director-General also committed resources for new work on the Blue Hope initiative, designed to strengthen vulnerable Mediterranean fisheries communities adversely affected by climate change and distress migration.

Finally, he added that work of FAO’s General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) would be pledging for a three-year project to improve fisheries management in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Later in the same session, GFCM’s Executive-Secretary Abdellah Srour confirmed the Direct-General’s announcement of the pledge, promising 23 million USD earmarked for this work.

At the close of the session, an interesting initiative was raised by Oceana Europe’s Executive Director, Lasse Gustavsson, who announced the initiative working with maritime insurers to ensure that vessels engaging in IUU fishing cannot obtain vessel insurance.

Kicking off the afternoon’s session, Queen Noor of Jordan delivered her keynote address with an emotional plea to work together globally to address the many challenges we face in safeguarding our ocean resources.

The afternoon panel session focused on climate-related impacts on the ocean. Former President of Costa Rica José María Figueres served as the panel’s inspiring moderator, reminding Conference attendees to thank the oceans, which produce over half of the oxygen for our planet, for every second breath they take. He also amused the audience with his plea to move away from business-as-usual approaches in order to embrace new technologies and approaches aimed at adapting to and mitigating climate change. Figueres quipped: “Our ancestors didn’t leave the Stone Age simply because they ran out of stones. They moved on because they found something better.”

Iceland’s Fisheries Minister Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir spoke about her island nation’s special relationship with the sea, and the generations of fishermen and fisherwomen who risked their lives fishing in a harsh climate when Iceland was still a developing island state, noting that it is thanks to the bravery of those hardworking ancestors that Iceland is now a prosperous welfare state. She stressed the importance of science-based approaches to climate change, and urged continued collaboration between island nations to share experiences and lessons learned, citing the useful dialogue sparked at the Faroe Islands’ organized Large Ocean Nations’ Forum that preceded the Our Ocean Forum.

Grenada’s Simon Steil, Minister of Blue Economy and Education opened with a reminder of the devastation suffered in the Caribbean following the recent hurricanes. He reported to the plenary that estimated damages from Hurricane Maria to the affected Caribbean nations has been placed at 100 billion USD, and reminded participants that warmer ocean temperatures due to climate change are expected to produce more intensive storms in the coming years. Minister Steil noted that countries like his are embracing the concepts of Blue Growth and Blue Economy, citing his country’s Blue Growth Pathway and its work to attract innovative financing. He also praised the Blue Coastal Masterplan of the Caribbean as a way to collaborate regionally and internationally on these important issues and challenges.

The final session was moderated by Former US Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped create the initial Our Ocean Conference. Looking back to that first conference, Kerry remembered “When we started this back in 2014, it was hard to convince the foreign policy community why oceans should be considered a foreign policy issue. Today, oceans are high on the international agenda and the link between oceans and foreign policy is better understood.” He cited the FAO Port State Measures Agreement as example of this momentum. There were only a handful of countries having ratified the agreement in 2014, whereas today it has entered into effect as an international treaty with over 70 countries adhering to it and working effectively to end illegal fishing.

As we look to the next Our Ocean Conference in Indonesia in 2018, Norway in 2019 and beyond, Kerry reminded participants of the need to work together on these crucial issues, since the challenges are too great to face by one nation alone.

President Tommy Remengesau of Palau spoke, noting that “To those of us from islands, ocean health is everything. Although we may be small island developing states, we feel ourselves to be large ocean states.” He announced that, following Our Ocean Conferences in Indonesia and Norway, the 2020 event would be hosted in the Pacific Islands – in Palau.

Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, spoke about her region’s challenges with ocean pollution, with a particular concern about plastics. She cited her country’s Marine Pollution Act of 2016 as a step in the right direction.

Norway’s Environment Minister Vidar Helgeson praised the strong momentum for oceans, citing the UN Ocean Conference as an important milestone. He also praised the involvement of private sector partners, stressing they had a crucial role to play alongside countries, international organizations and civil society. He spoke about marine litter, calling it “an outrage”. He added, “In the past, people used to debate whether or not sea monsters existed. They do. It’s marine plastics.”

Minister Helgeson spoke about Norway’s work in ending illegal fishing, and its hosting in Oslo this past May of the Inception meeting for the Parties to FAO’s Port State Measures Agreement. The meeting will be held every two years, with the next session taking place in Chile. He also announced Norway’s pleasure in hosting the 2019 Our Ocean event, which will be held in Oslo.

Indonesia’s Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Susi Pudjiastuti, announced plans for the next Our Ocean Conference, which will be held in Bali, Indonesia 29-30 October 2018. The theme will be “Our Ocean, Our Legacy” and she called on participants to help make it a success, also calling upon many Heads of State and Government to attend that meeting.

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans thanked Karmenu Vella and the entire Commission on Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries for its excellent organization of the event, noting that while “Malta may be the smallest nation in the EU, it is a giant in hosting successful conferences like this Our Ocean.”

Karmenu Vella, native of Malta and European Commission Member responsible for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, thanked his staff and all participants for the success of the meeting. He announced that the pledging at this Our Ocean event reached a record high of 6 billion euro in pledges destined to strengthen ocean governance around the world, and noted that there would be much work to do in implementing those commitments as we move forward to Bali next year.

Looking back at the two days of this Our Ocean Conference, and recalling past Conferences in the US and Chile, Árni M. Mathiesen, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture said, “We at FAO are very pleased with this event, and commend our EU partners for their excellent work in bringing Our Ocean to Europe for the first time and for hosting such a successful event.”

“We see the momentum for ocean issues increasing each year alongside the growth of this event, and the programme is constantly enriched to bring in topics of critical importance to the issues central to our work at FAO: the billions of people who rely on fisheries for their employment, livelihoods, and food security and nutritional needs. I believe it is important that these crucial dialogues are initiated around the globe. This is why it is a pleasure to see the baton being passed next year to Indonesia, then to Norway, and in 2020 to Palau. I would like to add a special word of thanks to Palau. It is especially impressive that this small Pacific island developing state has stepped up to take leadership for such an important global event – one that is clearly dear to Palau and its fellow ‘Large Ocean Nations’. I believe we have an exciting few years ahead of us as we work together to seek global solutions to safeguard Our Ocean.”

This whale displayed in the center of Valletta, Malta was created entirely from plastic bottles, cans and plastic straws recovered in the sea. Terrifying? We think so.
In Malta’s capital, a display of our oceans’ biodiversity – sculpted in Mdina glass.
The harbour in front of the Our Ocean venue.
We all have a role to play in keeping our seas and oceans free from plastic. Let’s keep our beaches and oceans litter-free.
Thank you, Malta! Next destination for Our Ocean is Bali, Indonesia.

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