World leaders meeting at France summit reflect on ways to protect the oceans :: WRAL.com
PARIS – World leaders gathered on the French Atlantic coast on Friday to discuss protecting the world’s oceans from threats such as overfishing and plastic pollution, and to find fairer ways to manage the seas.
The One Ocean Summit comes as European authorities investigate a massive fish dump in the Bay of Biscay that environmental activists are calling an example of abuse by huge trawlers disrupting underwater ecosystems.
The oceans cover more than 70% of the planet’s surface. Scientists estimate that 50% to 80% of all life on earth is found below the surface of the oceans and that at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen comes from the oceans, the majority being produced by plankton.
French President Emmanuel Macron kicked off the three-day summit in the port city of Brest with the support of the United Nations.
“Today we are going to make commitments,” Macron said in his opening speech. “I am convinced that they will contribute to reinforcing useful actions.”
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, whose country will host the annual UN climate summit this year, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, US climate envoy John Kerry and several other African and European leaders attended the event in person. Others were to participate via video messages.
Kerry said the “urgency of the fate we all find ourselves in” deserves our attention.
“There are extraordinary large-scale operations taking place every day at sea that are indistinguishable from large criminal enterprises on land,” he said. “They use appalling labor practices, money laundering and fraud to destroy the good efforts of fishermen people around the world trying to play by the rules.
Illegal activity is estimated to account for around one-fifth of global fishing.
Illegal fishing “is depleting the world’s fish stocks, literally dragging nets that we banned years ago…and throwing away two-thirds of what they catch,” Kerry said. “We create marine protected areas. But we don’t enforce them.”
Costa Rica, France and Britain launched an intergovernmental environmental group in 2019 to set a goal of protecting at least 30% of land and seas by 2030. The High Ambition Coalition for Nature and Men now includes 84 countries.
France has kept its coalition commitments by expanding protected areas in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Macron announced on Friday.
In addition, 14 nations participating in the Brest summit have pledged to strengthen the fight against illegal fishing through various actions, including better control of activities in ports and at sea.
Also in Brest, the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, announced that at least 80% of the planet’s seabed will be mapped by 2030, compared to 20% currently, which will help improve scientific knowledge. .
The United States and France recognized in a joint statement on Friday “the transboundary aspects of plastic pollution and the importance of reducing it at its source”. They said they support the launch of negotiations at the next United Nations Environment Assembly to reach a global agreement on this issue.
The Brest summit was also to prepare for the next international events, including the United Nations conference on the oceans scheduled for June in Lisbon. Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called it a “success” because it showed participants had the will to act.
“I swim in the Atlantic every day and I think about it,” De Sousa said in his closing speech. “It’s a new path that is opening up.
But the environmental group Greenpeace regretted that the summit ended in political statements “which remain vague on many issues”.
“The statements are going in the right direction, but we must now go further: we are waiting for concrete measures,” said François Chartier, in charge of oceans at Greenpeace France.
“The health of our oceans is in danger,” warned Nicolas Imbert, executive director of the non-governmental organization Green Cross. “We are already behind, so we need a shock to have strong new commitments and also to meet past commitments.”
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