World leaders mull ways to protect oceans at summit

Published February 12, 2022
France's President Emmanuel Macron (C,R) speaks after handing over the “Nature’s Baton”, the symbol of Relay4Nature, to Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (C,R) next to Brest mayor François Cuillandre (L) during the High Level Segment session of the One Ocean Summit, which seeks to raise the international community's ambitions to protect sealife, cut plastic pollution and tackle the impact of climate change, in the northwestern France port city of Brest on Friday. — AFP
France's President Emmanuel Macron (C,R) speaks after handing over the “Nature’s Baton”, the symbol of Relay4Nature, to Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (C,R) next to Brest mayor François Cuillandre (L) during the High Level Segment session of the One Ocean Summit, which seeks to raise the international community's ambitions to protect sealife, cut plastic pollution and tackle the impact of climate change, in the northwestern France port city of Brest on Friday. — AFP

PARIS: World leaders met on France’s Atlantic coast on Friday to discuss protecting the planets oceans from threats such as overfishing and plastic pollution, and finding fairer ways to manage the seas.

The One Ocean Summit comes as European authorities are investigating a mass fish dump in the Bay of Biscay that environmental activists call an example of abuses by huge trawlers that disrupt undersea ecosystems.

Oceans cover more than 70 per cent of the planet’s surface. Scientists estimate that 50pc to 80pc of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface and at least 50pc of the oxygen on the planet comes from the oceans, the majority being produced by plankton.

French President Emmanuel Macron initiated the three-day summit in the port city of Brest with the support of the United Nations.

“Today, we are going to make commitments,” Macron said in his opening speech. “I am convinced they are going to help strengthen helpful actions.”

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whose country will host the UN’s annual climate summit this year, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry and several other African and European leaders attended the event in person. Others were to take part via video messages.

Kerry said the urgency of the plight within which we all find ourselves deserves attention.

There are large-scale, extraordinary operations that go on every single day at sea that are indistinguishable from major criminal enterprises on land,” he said. “They use appalling practices of labour, money laundering and fraud to destroy the good efforts of fisher people around the world who are trying to live by the rules.

Illegal activity is estimated to account for about one-fifth of fishing globally.

Unlawful fisheries are depleting the fish stocks of the world, literally dragging nets that we outlawed several years ago ... and throwing away two-thirds of what they catch, Kerry said.

“We create marine protected areas. But we don’t enforce them.”

Costa Rica, France and Britain launched an intergovernmental environmental group in 2019 to set a target of protecting at least 30pc of land and sea by 2030. The High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People now includes 83 countries.

France met its coalition commitments by extending protected areas in the French Southern and Antarctic Territories, Macron announced Friday.

In addition, 14 nations participating in the Brest summit committed to strengthen the fight against illegal fishing via different actions including better controlling activities in ports and at sea.

Also in Brest, the UN cultural agency UNESCO announced that at least 80pc of the world’s seabed will be mapped by 2030, compared to 20pc currently which will help improve scientific knowledge.

The United States and France in a joint statement on Friday recognized the transboundary aspects of plastic pollution and the importance of curbing it at its source.

They said they support launching negotiations at the upcoming UN Environment Assembly to reach a global agreement addressing this issue.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2022

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