Our Ocean Conference

Date: 16th December 2015

The Second Our Ocean Conference took place from 5-6 October 2015 in Valparaíso, Chile. The Conference was a follow up to the first Our Ocean conference initiated by the United State’s State Department in 2014.  The conference covered several thematic areas including marine protected areas (MPAs), ocean acidification, marine pollution, and sustainable fisheries.

The goal of the conference was to promote voluntary commitments from governments and non-governmental institutions and generated US $2.1 billion in commitments on oceans. Notable commitments included the announcement to create two large protected areas by the government of Chile, the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park and a protected area comprising the entire exclusive economic zone of Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island).  The United States announced the launch of a new global initiative to tackle IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing, Sea Scout.  Sea Scout aims to harness global partnerships, technologies and resources to identify and prosecute global IUU fishing organizations and networks.  Governments also announced efforts to better monitor and understand the impacts of ocean acidification and initiatives to limit marine debris.  A comprehensive list of commitments from the conference can be found here: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/248350.pdf

While the high seas was not officially included as one of the thematic areas of the conference, numerous government officials and panelists highlighted the importance of the ongoing United Nations BBNJ process and the need to protect biodiversity on the high seas.  In a video message, Sigourney Weaver, actress and environmental activist, called on governments to create MPAs and reserves within and beyond national jurisdiction to safeguard the ocean against current global threats including ocean acidification. Several member organizations of the High Seas Alliance attended the conference to reinforce these messages, including the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Mission Blue, Natural Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund and The Pew Charitable Trusts.  Also of note, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust committed US $6 million in grant funding focused on projects related to marine conservation, including efforts to establish and maintain MPAs and improve high seas management. 

The next Our Ocean conference will be hosted by the United States government in 2016 and the European Union has committed to host in 2017.  The conference has proven to be an effective catalyst for action to better conserve and protect the ocean.  The High Seas Alliance is hopeful that the high seas will be more prominently featured on the future agenda of these conferences and that governments will prioritize efforts to ensure the conservation of vulnerable species and ecosystems in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction.

More information and a more comprehensive summary of the various conference panels can be found here: http://www.iisd.ca/oceans/our-ocean-conference-2015/

Cover photo by Luis Vidal on Unsplash

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