On Monday, June 5, World Environment Day, the first-ever United Nations Ocean Conference kicked off at the UN headquarters in New York.  Already the meeting has shown positive results: Whereas on Sunday there were approximately 500 voluntary commitments made towards realizing the ocean-centered Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14,  by Monday the number exceeded 800.

Noteworthy outcomes from day one include:

Dozens of Retailers Sign 2020 Tuna Traceability Declaration

This agreement between the public and private sectors aims to stop illegally-fished tuna from entering the market. Around fifty large retailers and companies around the world have signed the declaration, a non-binding commitment to increase the traceability of tuna throughout the supply chain.

Illegal tuna fishing is a major ocean conservation problem, since it not only threatens the bluefin tuna with extinction, but also affects the livelihoods of people in low-income countries that are dependent on tuna.

Gabon Announces New Marine Protected Areas

The president of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, announced that 26 percent of Gabon’s marine areas will be turned into marine parks and reserves.

First Global Integrated Marine Assessment Published

Hundreds of scientists and experts have voluntarily come together to create the first assessment regarding the environmental, economic and social dimensions that revolve around the oceans. The 55-chapter report warns, among other things, of the potential for irreversible degradation of marine resources, and creates the scientific backdrop for the ocean conference’s “Call for Action”

More assessments will be compiled in coming years to strengthen scientific knowledge on the oceans, and develop a thorough understanding of how the marine environment can be repaired.

First Dialogue on Marine Pollution

Norway and Indonesia chaired the conference’s first multi-stakeholder dialogue, focused on what can be done to both reduce and clean up marine pollution. The results for each dialogue will be presented at the end of the week.

These were some of the highlights we have selected on the first day of the Ocean Conference. Overall it was inspiring and promising to see so many different people come together and share their intention and motivation to save our oceans. We look forward to the remaining four days! Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more coverage and extra updates.

The conference’s opening ceremony featured a traditional Fijian kava ceremony—Fiji and Sweden are official conference hosts—along with the screening of an inspiring video produced by the BBC, “The Ocean and Us,” which treated the delegates to breath-taking images of the oceans narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

In their opening speeches, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson, and Under-Secretary-General for economic and social affairs Wu Hongbo all stressed that for too long, humans have taken the oceans for granted, and that action must be taken now, together, to nourish the oceans back to a healthy, sustainable state.

The SDG14-targets are the guidelines to achieve this.

Photo: Kava ceremony at the opening of the UN Ocean Conference on Monday, June 5, 2017. Courtesy of UN Ocean Conference.