READING through the world’s pledges for the protection of our oceans during the first-ever Oceans Conference that Fiji and Sweden co-chaired at the United Nations headquarters in New York in June, one could easily be lulled into thinking that our oceans have been saved finally. Members of the UN by the end of the five-day meeting had made a total of 1372 commitments towards ocean protection and marine conservation, keeping in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
These commitments are purely voluntary and not legally binding. Even the Call to Action declaration released as the conference’s outcome document could only “call on stakeholders” to remember their voluntary pledges and see to their implementations “on an urgent basis.” The Dominican Republic has the largest number of voluntary pledges about the ocean at 43. Fiji as co-host submitted 16. Its bigger neighbours of Australia and New Zealand put up 20 and 22 commitments respectively on saving the ocean and its resources.
Conservation measures directed at the South Pacific Ocean totalled 313. The North Atlantic Ocean had the most, some 449 voluntary commitments. Protection of marine species such as sharks, sting rays, turtles, whales, dolphins and spawning groupers were among the voluntary pledges that Fiji submitted. It also announced nationwide plans to reduce the use of plastic bags, and put in place a strategy to protect its coastlines from storm surges and land loss.
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