Iceland’s President Heralds New Era of Ocean Protection

Date: 21st September 2016

Gudni Th. Johannesson, the newly elected President of Iceland has said that “We need to defend the ecosystems of the world ocean, stop pollution, warming and ocean acidification as well as excessive fisheries beyond national jurisdiction” in an address to a meeting organized by the Iceland Nature Conservation Association (INCA) and the High Seas Alliance.

The meeting, held in Reykjavik yesterday (19 September 2016), brought together representatives from academia, and NGOs,to discuss the growing crisis in ocean health.  Professor Dan Laffoley, Marine Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, presented the latest findings about multiple stressors facing the ocean and the importance of supporting ocean resilience.  Highlighting the need for a robust new international treaty to protect biodiversity on the high seas Professor Laffoley said “change is undeniably now sweeping through our seas, affecting all our interests and it is critical that countries have at their disposal a full set of tools to safeguard and manage the open ocean – the High Seas. Iceland is unfortunately highly vulnerable to such marine impacts, and to the lack of ability to act resulting from the clearly inadequate current High Seas regime.”

Negotiations are currently underway at the United Nations (UN) to determine whether or not a formal treaty process for the high seas will be opened up, a move which Iceland has previously opposed.  Arni Finnsson of INCA said, “it will take a concerted, global effort to save the ocean and the life that depends on it and we are seeing a growing awareness of that in Iceland.  The words of the President are very encouraging and could herald a new era of ocean protection.”

Professor Laffoley added “It is already heartening to see the immediate response from the Icelandic fishing industry acting with their university on ocean acidification, to the inspiring words from the President today, and to the opportunities this presents to work together as never before in enlightened self interests to safeguard the ocean and the values it holds for all of us.  I undertook with the President of Iceland today to jointly do just that.”

President Gudni Th. Johannesson:  “Experts on ocean ecosystems fear we are headed for grave danger unless we do something.”

INCA and the High Seas Alliance are calling on all States to support the opening of a new treaty to protect high seas biodiversity.  UN negotiations towards this are due to conclude at the end of 2017.

Download the presentation The Ocean – the future we want

Cover photo by High Seas Alliance

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