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Statement by President Higgins on World Ocean Day 2023

Date: Thu 8th Jun, 2023 | 16:47

“On this World Ocean Day, it is vital we commit to action, give authenticity to and build on the momentum created by the long awaited international agreement reached in New York in March on the UN High Seas Treaty and take the practical steps needed to protect and sustain our oceans.

We will be judged by our actions, which are not currently in evidence.

UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 commits to conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. This is a vital task in sustaining the life both within and which depends on our oceans. We need new and urgent initiatives.

What a shocking statistic it is that the total amount of vertebrate sea life, including fish, has reduced by more than a third since 1970. Equally shocking too is the fact that 100 million marine animals die each year from plastic waste alone.

It is vital that as a global community we lose no more time in our responses and that we collectively tackle the challenges of rapidly declining biodiversity, overfishing, acidification, commercial whaling and shark-finning, plastic waste, pollution, and habitat destruction, including coral reef damage.

We must likewise bear at the front of our minds that the ocean’s resources sustain the livelihoods of over a third of the globe’s population, about 3 billion people worldwide, the vast majority of whom live in developing countries.

Climate change is causing sea levels to rise, threatening coastal populations and Small Island Developing States. It is a profound injustice that those countries suffering the greatest human and economic impact of climate change happen to be those least responsible for the carbon emissions that threaten their existence.

Ocean health is an existential threat to humanity and the survival of our planet and the forms of life dependent on a healthy, diverse Earth. As a global community, now is the time to quickly move to ratification and implementation of the UN High Seas Treaty and to continue our work to ensure SDG 14 is achieved as a matter of the utmost urgency.”