The first United Nations Oceans Conference was held June 5-9, concluding with a global agreement to reverse the decline of the ocean’s health and more than 1,300 pledged actions for protecting the shared, global resource. The week-long conference, which coincided with the United Nations Oceans Day on 8 June, brought together over 6,000 people to discuss the challenges facing the world’s oceans.
The high-level conference was convened to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. Topics that were discussed ranged from plastic pollution in the oceans and seas, to ocean acidification and illegal fishing, to deep sea science for sustainable development. All of which tie in with other sustainable development goals of improving livelihoods, alleviating poverty and hunger, promoting health, and ensuring access to water and sanitation services.
World marine specialists attending the event highlighted the benefits that oceans provide to coastal countries and communities, especially small island developing states, where the connection to the oceans and livelihoods is deeply intertwined. It is estimated that marine fisheries support, directly or indirectly, more than 200 million people globally.
The conference ended with a 14-point Call for Action where the participating heads of state and government representatives pledged to act decisively and urgently to reverse the decline in the ocean’s health and restore its ecological integrity.
“The bar has been raised on global consciousness and awareness of the problem in the oceans,” the President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, told journalists in New York.
The Ocean Conference included almost 200 side events and exhibitions, including events with New Oceans Advocate and globally-acclaimed Australian singer-songwriter Cody Simpson, as well as Marine biologist Douglas McCauley and Aboriginal artist Sid Bruce Short Joe.
The conference provided the first platform for countries and engaged actors to not only bring awareness to ocean issues, but also to chart the future for sustainable marine development and the lives of citizens that benefit from the goods and services provided by the ocean.