United Nations chief: Save the oceans to avert 'global catastrophe'

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More than 600 commitments have been received at the Ocean Conference underway at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in NY with a pledge to take action to improve the health of the ocean.

World leaders convene at United Nations headquarters next week for the first major bid to solve the toughest problems facing our oceans, from coral bleaching to plastic pollution, overfishing and rising seas due to climate change.

Following the US' decision to leave the Paris Agreement, Bolivian President Evo Morales criticised the nation, saying she was the "main threat to Mother Earth".

Marine and coastal ecosystems include marine living resources and important habitats such as coral reefs, sea-grass beds, which are crucial for sustainable oceans and seas.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has opened the first-ever United Nations conference on oceans with a warning that the lifeblood of the planet is "under threat as never before", with one recent study warning that discarded plastic garbage could outweigh fish by 2050 if nothing is done.

The Ocean Conference, which runs through Friday, focuses on the targets outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by Governments in 2015.

Plastic on a beach
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South Africa has an advantage by virtue of its geographical positioning, and is "globally recognised" as unique and a hotspot of biodiversity boasting over 10 000 marine species; however, the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 will be key to its sustainable development.

As the worldwide community focuses this week on preserving the health of global oceans and seas, the United Nations agencies on agriculture, environment and trade are committing to the sustainable trade of fisheries.

"Time is running out to save our seas and oceans", said Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama. In his opening address, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for protection of the oceans "to avoid long-term global catastrophe".

"All the while, the greenhouse gases of accumulated carbon- combusting human activity are not only driving climate change, they are causing rising sea levels through Ocean warming, while threatening life in the Ocean through acidification and deoxygenation".

The Ocean Conference, the first-ever such summit convened by the United Nations, is being held from 5th to 9th June.

A big showing is expected from small island developing States, particularly from the Pacific Islands, and from African coastal States, which are on the frontlines of climate change and whose economies are particularly vulnerable to changes in the oceans and marine life. Unless we overcome the territorial and resource interests that have blocked progress for far too long, the state of our oceans will continue to deteriorate.

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