Climate Health

Oceans are acidifying, getting choked with pollution: UN chief

UN Oceans Pollution

HQ Team

December 9, 2022: Oceans around the globe are acidifying and getting choked with pollution, with 35% of the world’s fisheries being overexploited, UN chief Antonio Guterres said.

“It’s high time to end the false dichotomy between profit and protection of the ocean,” Guterres said. “If we fail to protect it for future generations, there can be no profit for anyone.”

He said governments should develop laws and policies that put protection and conservation first, while marine industries and investors should prioritise conservation, protection and climate resilience.

Sea levels are rising as the climate crisis continues, Guterres said at a UN General Assembly meeting marking the 40th anniversary of adopting the Law of the Sea Convention.

Most oceanic pollutants come from human activities along the coastlines and far inland. One of the most significant sources of pollution is nonpoint source pollution, which occurs due to runoff.

Septic tanks, vehicles

Nonpoint source pollution can come from many sources, like septic tanks, vehicles, farms, livestock ranches, and timber harvest areas. Pollution from a single source, like an oil or chemical spill, is known as point source pollution.

Discharge from faulty or damaged factories or water treatment systems is also considered point source pollution.

“The ocean is life. The ocean is livelihoods, and the ocean binds humanity together across history and cultures,” Guterres said.

Among the key provisions of the Law of Sea Convention are the conservation of the world’s fisheries, marine protection and the right to resources within 200 nautical miles of national shorelines,.

It covers the sustainable and equitable management of mineral-related activities in international waters.

“As we gather today, the Convention is more relevant than ever. The ocean is in dire straits”, the UN chief said.

Epic flood threats

Coral reefs are bleaching, “epic floods” threaten coastal cities everywhere, and too often, “people working in ocean-based industries are not accessing the support or safe working conditions they need and deserve,” he said.

The recently adopted Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies needed to be adopted swiftly, ensuring that all policies towards the ocean are “underpinned by the best science, and the best economic and social expertise.”

It meant bringing the wisdom and knowledge of Indigenous peoples and local communities into the Convention, ending the plastic pollution crisis, and concluding the agreement on marine biological diversity of areas beyond national borders next year, he said.

“Countless species and immense biodiversity” faced extinction amid rising sea temperatures. “And while the climate crisis threatens all humankind, in the context of the oceans, small islands are particularly vulnerable and face nothing short of an existential threat.” 

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