Thursday at the Ocean Conference overlapped with World Oceans Day. This year’s theme, “Our Oceans, Our Future,” focused on ending plastic pollution and clearing the oceans of marine litter. Over 600 events worldwide contributed to these goals in tangible ways, including beach clean-ups and public education.

In New York, where the conference is moving into its final hours, the conference day kicked off with a three-hour gathering where scientists, leading experts and locals from coastal communities all got the chance to speak about the role the ocean plays in their lives. Their presence together emphasised the importance of cooperation between people and professionals from different arenas to solve the host of difficult ocean problems.

The Empire State Building lit up blue on Thursday evening to raise awareness for the oceans.

A few highlights of Thursday’s events and announcements:

Map of Plastic Pollution
The Ocean Cleanup Project, Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat’s ambitious effort to clean up marine plastic trash, released the first-ever interactive map of coastal plastic pollution worldwide. Along with displaying the magnitude of the problem, the map also displays how much plastic is entering the ocean in real time, giving a clear sense of urgency to the issue.

Sixth Dialogue: Scientific Knowledge and Marine Technology
Chaired by Iceland and Peru, the second-to-last partnership dialogue focused the on SDG 14 target of “increasing scientific knowledge, and developing research capacity and transfer of marine technology.” The subject of scientific knowledge has come up frequently during the conference—as with yesterday’s announcement by Monaco Explorations of its plans to build on the existing scientific body of knowledge on the oceans by bringing together scientists from different backgrounds and nationalities.

The dialogue aims to create similar projects that result in better understanding of what takes place below the sea, hopefully by combining governmental, private sector and non-governmental organisations to speed up scientific research.

More Voluntary Commitments

Commitments continued to rise on Thursday, with more than 1150 commitments on record by the end of the conference day. A few fast facts about these action items:

  • The Dominican Republic is currently leading in number of governmental voluntary commitments with 26, followed by New Zealand (21), Australia (20), Montenegro (17) and Singapore (17).
  • Most of the commitments are globally oriented (421), followed by the North Atlantic (359), South Pacific (245) and Indian Ocean (210).
  • Commitment no. 1000, to improve locally-managed fisheries on the Marshall Islands, was made by the UN Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility.
  • Commitments are well-distributed across public and private sectors, as well as civil society:
    • National governments: 533 voluntary commitments
    • UN entities: 100 commitments
    • Non-governmental organisations: 221 commitments
    • Civil society organisations: 61 commitments
    • Academic institutions: 41 commitments
    • Scientific community: 18 commitments
    • Private sector: 62 commitments
    • Philanthropic organisations: 18 commitments
    • Other relevant actors and partnerships: 55 commitments

Teen Sisters Inspire Global Action

Finally, if you haven’t heard yet about the teenage Indonesian sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen, make sure to check out their talk at the Ocean Conference. The Wiisen sisters have mobilised people worldwide to take action on plastic pollution, from cleaning beaches and coastlines of litter to pushing for plastic bag bans.

Photo: On World Ocean Day, a team of divers cleaned up litter in the Eastern Harbour of Alexandria, where an estimated 11,000 antiquities are underwater. Credit: United Nations