Events at the United Nations Ocean Conference on Wednesday continued at the same fast pace, with two partnership dialogues planned and many interesting side-events. If you missed the earlier updates, make sure to check out the highlights of Day 1 and Day 2!

Fourth Dialogue: Making Fisheries Sustainable

In the fourth of seven partnership dialogues, Canada and Senegal chaired an official meeting on how to make fisheries sustainable. With overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices threatening oceanic biodiversity, international agreements that promote sustainable fishing practices may be one part of the solution.

The Ocean Conference has served as a good platform to promote sustainability certifications. Consumers can make a conscious choice to buy fish in supermarkets that have such certifications, which ensure that the fish is caught or farmed in a sustainable manner.

As with the previous dialogues, we will learn more about the outcome of this one at the end of the conference.

Monaco Explorations

Prince Albert II of Monaco announced a new campaign called Monaco Explorations, which aims to create a comprehensive map of our oceans. To help raise awareness of ocean problems and promote international cooperation on science, policies, and action towards solutions, the project will launch an environmentally friendly ship to circumnavigate the globe over three years. Its journey will include visits to many islands and coastal areas, where scientists from different backgrounds will collaborate on marine research, adding to the existing body of science regarding our oceans and how we can sustainably manage marine resources. Learn more about this fantastic project here.

Fifth Dialogue: Developing Countries and Small-scale Artisanal Fisheries

Estonia and Grenada chaired the fifth partnership dialogue, on the topic of “increasing economic benefits to small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs); and providing access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets.” This dialogue refers to two SDG14 targets: 14.7 Developing Countries and 14.b Artisanal Fisheries.

In an earlier briefing on Tuesday, the minister of maritime affairs of Indonesia, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, addressed the frictions that arise between commercial fisheries and local small-scale fisheries. According to Pandjaitan, it is crucial that the small-scale artisanal fisheries are supported economically while commercial fishers are controlled on overfishing. That these two SDG14-targets have been combined for dialogue at the conference makes sense, since artisanal fisheries are intrinsically linked to developing countries and global socio-economic inequality.

New Voluntary Commitments

Already many countries have pledged to ban single-use plastics or plastic bags. Among specific commitments announced on Wednesday, two more nations made plastics-related promises:

  • Ireland will push for legislation banning certain products which use microplastics. A great commitment, as microplastics are often defined as the largest plastic pollution crisis in the oceans. Ireland’s commitment includes cosmetics, body care and cleansing products, as well as detergents and certain cleaning products.
  • The government of Austria partnered with large supermarket chains and non-governmental organisations to reduce the yearly amount of plastic carrier bags. The aim is to reduce annual use to 25 plastic bags per capita used by 2019. To judge the scope of the problem: Andy Keller, inventor of the Bag Monster, estimated that the average American citizen uses 500 plastic bags per year.

The Cook Islands committed to protect, conserve and implement management practices for their entire exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This small island group in the middle of the Pacific has an EEZ that covers a whopping 1.9 million square kilometres, making this an impressively ambitious commitment.

Sweden announced that it will designate four new marine protected areas (MPAs) and expand two existing areas, increasing the percentage of Swedish territorial waters in protection from 6.7 percent to 13.6 percent. One of Sweden’s main goals with this increase is to protect the harbour porpoise.

The third day ended with an amazing achievement: the number of voluntary commitments grew to 1,000; twice the number at the start of the conference. Peter Thomson, president of the UN General Assembly, had expressed confidence ahead of the conference that commitments would double during the week—regarded by most as a bold prediction. We’re excited to see how the number will grow by the end of the gathering on Friday; stay tuned!

Photo: In the ocean, plastic bags become hazards for animals which may mistake them for prey and consume them. As they break down they become micro-plastic pollution that can harm smaller organisms. Credit: NOAA Photo Library