Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action

Ocean ConferenceOur ocean, our future: call for action, A/RES.71/312, is the outcome of the UN Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 and the 2030 Agenda, co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden, 5 to 9 June 2017, New York. The conference focused on actions that will reverse the decline in the health of our ocean.

Human activities that harm marine life are degrading the ocean, undermining coastal communities’ livelihoods, and having a negative impact on human health. Every year more than 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean. Pollution of oceans includes toxic chemicals from industries (including oil, lead, and mercury), land run-off (including fertilizers, petroleum, and pesticides), wastewater, oil spills, and littering. Pollution of oceans has a negative impact on human health, through contaminated water supplies and food chains through affected marine life. The call for action promotes waste prevention and minimalization, as well as, implementation of long-term strategies to reduce the use of plastics and microplastics.

Our ocean is losing its marine life at a rapid rate. Due to overfishing for human consumption, the population of several species, like Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, have declined so much that their survival is at risk. The call for action commits to enhance sustainable fisheries management, including to restore fish stocks and end destructive fishing practices.

Our ocean plays a crucial role in the water cycle and the climate system and acts as a climate regulator. Climate change has negative impacts on the ocean, including a rise in ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, deoxygenation, sea level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, coastal erosion, and extreme weather events. Species are in danger, unable to adapt fast enough to ocean warming and acidification. The call for action recognizes the Paris Agreement and calls to develop and implement effective adaptation and mitigation measures to address harmful impacts of climate change on the ocean. At the UNFCCC COP 23, Fiji Presidency launched The Ocean Pathway strategy to ensure the ocean is an integral part of the UNFCCC process by 2020.

The call for action recognizes the importance of gender equality and the critical role of women and youth in the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Women are leaders in the sustainable use and management of marine and coastal resources. Women in small-scale fisheries are in charge of fish processing and small-scale fish trading; valuable to coastal communities’ livelihoods and food security. Small-scale fisheries’ access to marine resources in compromised due to infrastructure gaps, and competition with large-scale fishing operations, and other sectors, including tourism, aquaculture, agriculture, and energy. Small-scale fisheries also suffer high post-harvest losses due to low investment, low-level technology, and contamination from land-based pollution. The call for action strengthens capacity-building and technical assistance to small-scale and artisanal fisheries in developing countries. Although not stated in the call for action, capacity building has to target women specifically, to address the structural, legal management and cultural barriers that prevent women from full access to fisheries and resources.