THE President of Ireland has issued a rallying call urging Irish people across the globe to step up and act to protect and sustain the world’s oceans.
“It is vital we commit to action”, President Michael D Higgins said in a statement made on World Oceans Day, while highlighting “shocking” global statistics around the reduction in sea-life and increase in deaths of marine animals due to plastic waste alone.
He urged the global community to build on the historic UN High Seas Treaty, which was agreed in March, after 20 years of discussions, and now provides a legal framework to establish vast marine protected areas (MPAs) on the almost two-thirds of the world’s oceans that lie outside national boundaries.
“On this World Oceans Day, it is vital we commit to action, give authenticity to and build on the momentum created by the long-awaited international agreement reached in New York in March on the UN High Seas Treaty and take the practical steps needed to protect and sustain our oceans,” he said.
“We will be judged by our actions, which are not currently in evidence,” the President added.
Referencing the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, which commits to “conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”, President Higgins claimed this is a “vital task in sustaining the life both within and which depends on our oceans”, although he added that the world needs “new and urgent initiatives”.
“What a shocking statistic it is that the total amount of vertebrate sea life, including fish, has reduced by more than a third since 1970,” he said.
“Equally shocking too is the fact that 100 million marine animals die each year from plastic waste alone,” he added.
“It is vital that as a global community we lose no more time in our responses and that we collectively tackle the challenges of rapidly declining biodiversity, overfishing, acidification, commercial whaling and shark-finning, plastic waste, pollution, and habitat destruction, including coral reef damage.”
The UN has celebrated World Oceans Day on June 8 every year since 2009 when it was designated an official international day by the UN General Assembly.
“On this day we have the opportunity to raise global awareness of the benefits humankind derives from the ocean and our individual and collective duty to use its resources sustainably,” the UN states.
Their theme for 2023 is Planet Ocean: Tides are Changing.
“The ocean covers over 70 per cent of the planet - it is our life source, supporting humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on earth,” the UN explains.
“The ocean produces at least 50 per cent of the planet’s oxygen, it is home to most of earth’s biodiversity, and is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world.
“Not to mention, the ocean is key to our economy with an estimated 40 million people being employed by ocean-based industries by 2030,” they explained.
“Even though all its benefits, the ocean is now in need of support.
“With 90 per cent of big fish populations depleted, and 50 per cent of coral reefs destroyed, we are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished.
“We need to work together to create a new balance with the ocean that no longer depletes its bounty but instead restores its vibrancy and brings it new life.”
Celebrity backers joining President Higgins in the call to save the world’s oceans include the actress and model Cara Delevingne, who stated: “Now more than ever health is at the forefront of public consciousness, but we must understand that human health is dependent on the health of our oceans and the health of our planet.”