Political will and partnerships essential to stop ocean degradation
Healthy oceans critical for food security and development of small island states and the world at large - FAO Director-General
As island nations, the economies, livelihoods and existence of SIDS are closely linked to the health and wellbeing of the oceans, the Director-General said - indeed, their development depends on it.
"But the health of oceans is essential not only for SIDS," Graziano da Silva added, "it is a condition for global development, and shared prosperity."
The event followed on the heels of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit at which the General Assembly launched a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide global development for the next 15 years -- Goal number 14 directs countries in specific ways to "conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources."
Worldwide, fish is the main source of animal protein for billions of people. And the livelihoods of over 10 percent of the world population depend on capture fishing and fish farming.
But the fisheries and aquaculture sectors are affected by a plethora of problems, including over-exploitation, pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change and ocean acidification.
"We still have time, and must have the will, to reverse these processes before it is too late," Graziano da Silva said. "In doing so, we will also build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of fisheries, farmers and coastal communities," he added.
Because small island states are not responsible for the processes that cause climate change and threaten their existence, acting with the SIDS alone will not be enough, the FAO Director General said, underlining that local actions need to go hand in hand with global cooperation.
One good example of this is the SAMOA Pathway, adopted by governments last year at the Third International Conference on SIDS, which sets out an action plan on issues such as equitable economic growth, climate change, sustainable energy, disaster risk reduction, and the sustainable use of marine resources.
"We have a responsibility to support SIDS in overcoming their many challenges," Graziano da Silva underlined, mentioning partnerships between government and the private sector as a key part of the equation.
FAO is supporting fisheries-related livelihoods in various ways, including through its Blue Growth Initiative that aims to increasing people's capacity to build stable livelihoods and grow their economy through more efficient and sustainable use of aquaculture resources.