To mark World Ocean Day on 8 June, a panel of experts from across the Commonwealth led a virtual discussion on new and emerging issues around the management and financing of Marine Protected Areas to safeguard vital biodiversity and ecosystems.
The event was opened by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland and included a special address by the President of Seychelles, H.E. Wavel Ramkalawan.
In his video message, President Ramkalawan reiterated the urgency of the topic: “We celebrate World Ocean Day this year at a time when our mother ocean, the origin of life on Earth, is under unprecedented stress. We are all being called to give and to be beacons of hope to solve the interconnected climate and biodiversity crisis that continues to worsen by the day.
“We firmly believe that we cannot create wealth and provide food, jobs, livelihoods, and a comfortable standard of living to our people, and tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis without a healthy, resilient and productive ocean.”
Secretary-General Scotland called for enhanced international support and warned that financing for ocean protection is still by far the lowest of all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Secretary-General applauded Seychelles and Barbados for stepping forward to co-champion the Action Group on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.
The Government of Seychelles has designated about a third of its vast ocean space for protection, limiting fishing and harmful human activities in the area to allow for natural regeneration.
It is one of four Commonwealth countries to do so, along with more than 30 that have pledged to protect at least 30 per cent of their national waters by 2030.
Currently, only about 8 per cent of the ocean is currently designated as ‘protected’, with less than 3 per cent as ‘highly protected’. This means the vast majority of marine ecosystems are highly exposed to a multitude of human and natural stressors, such as overfishing.
The event took place just two weeks ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, scheduled from 20 – 25 June, where ocean governance and increased support for the Blue Charter is on the agenda for discussion by leaders.
Learn more: Commonwealth Blue Charter