The UN Ocean Conference held in New York from 5 to 9 June 2017 turned out to be a great success. 193 countries united around an outcome document (‘call for action’), making more than 1300 voluntary commitments for action. Belgium actively participated and proposes 35 voluntary commitments.
The oceans are massively affected by human activity. ‘But humans can help turn the tide’, stated UN Secretary-General Guterres in his opening speech to the Ocean Conference. ‘We must put aside short-term national gain, to prevent long-term global catastrophe.’
That mission appears to be successful. In the outcome document the participating countries made firm commitments. A selection from the results:
- Reduce in the long term the use of plastics and microplastics (single-use plastics e.g. for shopping bags)
- Protect the coastal and marine ecosystems (mangroves, seagrass fields, coral reefs, …)
- Prevent acidification, sea level rise and oceanic warming by means of effective climate protection measures.
- Promote sustainable fishery in order to restore fish stocks as quickly as possible
- Abolish subsidies resulting in overfishing or illegal fishing.
In addition, numerous countries made individual commitments such as limiting the discharge of sewage and other waste into the oceans or promoting maritime research. New sea areas will be protected as reserves. The objective to protect more than 10% of all sea areas by 2020 is likely to be achieved.
Belgium assumes 22 commitments made by the government, the academic world, the NGOs and the private sector.
Belgium is actively involved
Belgium actively participated to the ocean conference, among others by organizing a side event on ‘ghost gear’: fishing gear (nets, …) that has been left behind and in which marine animals can get entangled. Moreover ‘ghost gear’ forms the basis of 10 to 15% of all plastic particles in the sea. Belgium supports the ‘Global Ghost Gear Initiative’ that is focusing on making ghost gear detectable and on recycling recovered material. In addition, Belgium grants 100,000 euros to the NGO World Animal Protection in order to make ghost gear in the Pacific detectable.
Belgium assumes 35 commitments made by the government, the academic world, the NGOs and the private sector. In this context Belgium is reviewing the marine spatial plan mapping all activities in the North Sea and is working at a Vision for the North Sea 2050 and at sustainable fishery measures for the North Sea. In addition there will be a federal action plan for collecting marine litter. Moreover Belgium devotes special efforts to the Small-Island Developing States.