Urgent coordinated action needed to restore health of world’s oceans

KARACHI: Urgent coordinated action is needed to restore the health of the world’s oceans and secure the long-term well-being and food security of a growing global population. That is a key message of an international summit that opens Tuesday in The Hague, the Netherlands.

According to a press release issued from Rome, ministers and senior representatives from governments, the fishing industry, coastal communities, science and civil society are coming together at the Global Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth (22-25 April) which aims to bring global attention and increased investment into addressing the three key threats to ocean health and food security: overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution. The summit will culminate in a high-level roundtable on Thursday 25 April.

“Urgent joint action of the global community is needed to address the threats facing our oceans”, said H.E. Sharon Dijksma, Minister for Agriculture of the Netherlands, which is hosting the summit.

“Local innovations to balance ecology and economy at sea must be identified and put into practice in other regions. The Global Oceans Action Summit in The Hague provides the opportunity to make a difference.”

On average, 17 percent of global animal protein intake comes from fisheries and aquaculture, and demand for fish protein is expected to double in the next 20 years, yet some 28 percent of global stocks are already overfished.

At the same time, climate change is threatening biodiversity, altering habitats and changing the productivity of our fisheries.

“Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 2050,” said Árni M. Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“However, we need to act now at the speed and scale necessary to meet the challenges we face by joining forces with all stakeholders, fostering partnerships and spurring sustainable growth.

Over 500 delegates are expected to attend the Summit, including more than 60 ministers, CEOs and leaders from civil society.

Hosted by the Government of the Netherlands, the Summit is co-organized by the World Bank, FAO and the governments of Grenada, Indonesia, Mauritius, Norway and the United States of America.

The Summit will focus on some of the underlying causes that have led to the overfishing, increased marine pollution and loss of critical habitat as well as potential solutions.

This means balancing the demand for growth with the need for conservation of marine areas; addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the high seas and within national exclusive economic zones; and ensuring private sector growth does not come at the expense of protecting the livelihoods of local communities.

“Solutions exist that balance the ecological and economic demands on the ocean,” said Juergen Voegele, Director of Agriculture and Environmental Services at the World Bank, a co-organizer of the event.

“We have the opportunity to align all our efforts and bring solutions to scale locally. With public-private partnerships and shared approaches we can restore ocean health and provide food and jobs for communities worldwide.”

In exploring solutions, emphasis will also be placed on the finance mechanisms and governance structures needed to ensure that actions have the impact and longevity to respond to global demands.

Among the approaches discussed, inclusive partnerships that bring together public, private, community and civil society actors will be highlighted.

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