Thousands of blue minded people are heading to the United Nations’ The Ocean Conference, which will take place in New York from 5th to 9th June. It will be a prime opportunity for governments, non-governmental organisations, academic institutions, businesses, philanthropies, civil society organisations, and the scientific community to assess the challenges the ocean is facing, and respond to a global call for action. Seas At Risk is joining this international effort, and will among others issue a strong statement about sustainable alternatives to deep sea mining.

The Conference’s focus is the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14): ‘Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’. Clearly reaching that goal will require far reaching global-to-local action. For decades, humans have assumed the ocean was so vast and limitless that they could take out of it as much as they wanted and use it as a garbage bin as much as they wanted. This has resulted in a dramatic decline of marine biodiversity, as well as overfishing and wide-spread pollution. Plastics are now omniprevalent, from the deepest ocean trenches to the most remote islands. On top of that, climate change is already resulting in sea level rise, changes in ocean currents (that are vital climate regulators) and acidification.The roots of the ocean’s problems lie much beyond the ocean itself and directly put into question our economic growth paradigm, as well as our own lifestyles. We cannot go on living as if we had several blue planets at our disposal. The solution lies in a global transition to sustainable consumption and production systems, as required by the Sustainable Development Goal 12.

Already we see a proliferation of innovative design solutions to make products more resource efficient and last longer. We can extend their use by repairing, sharing and re-using. And keep resources in the economic loop by recycling once products have reached their end of life. Such a transition would not only call a halt to marine litter, but would also make a high-risk sector like deep sea mining unnecessary. We also need a fundamental shift in our overall food system in order to meet the future seafood needs of a growing global population within the limits of the ocean.

Ocean governance plays an equally important role and should be much improved. The global push for blue economy growth should not override the efforts to restore our seas to good health.

Hundreds of organisations have already submitted voluntary commitments to SDG14, which will be announced at the Conference. Seas At Risk committed to:

Monica Verbeek, Executive Director of Seas At Risk, will present a statement on the latter during the conference plenary session on Friday 9 June. The statement ‘Deep sea mining has no place in a future shaped by the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development’ is supported by all 34 Seas At Risk members, as well as Mission Blue, BLOOM, the Deep Sea Mining Campaign and Earthworks.

Ms Verbeek will also participate in the side event on “Solutions to marine plastic litter”. In addition, Seas At Risk co-signed a position paper on the SDG14 coordinated by SAR member Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, and a statement on ocean noise coordinated by SAR member Ocean Care.

The outcome of the Conference will be an inter-governmentally agreed declaration in the form of a "Call for Action" to support the implementation of Goal 14. Draft texts circulating so far do not seem overwhelmingly ambitious. We still hope this global mobilisation of governments and stakeholders will bring the oceans to the top of the political agenda world-wide. Seas At Risk will strive to ensure the high level commitments result in concrete effective actions in the years to come.

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