Statement to the Media during COP 22 about the UN Conference on Oceans
Members of the media,
The health of the world’s oceans and seas is an issue of the greatest importance to humanity. So I’m delighted to be here with the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden and the President of the UN General Assembly to give you all a briefing on the UN Conference on Oceans in New York next June.
As many of you already know, Fiji and Sweden are co-hosting this gathering of the nations of the world to address the issues of pollution and overfishing. And as a Pacific Small Island Developing State whose coastal communities are totally dependent on our marine resources, Fiji is proud to be at the forefront of this effort.
We intend to work as hard as we can over the coming months to bring the world’s attention to the urgent need to reverse the degradation of our oceans and seas. And I know that the Swedish Government shares our determination to place this issue at the top of the global agenda.
For a maritime nation like Fiji, confronting the threat to the health of our seas is just as important as confronting the threat of extreme weather events and rising sea levels. And I hope that the New York conference next June is viewed with the same importance by other nations as our joint deliberations on climate change.
Before the three of us take your questions, can I thank the Swedish Deputy Prime Minister (Isabella Lovin) for her own Government’s commitment to championing this cause. And, of course, in pressing our case, Fiji has been very fortunate that our Permanent Representative to the UN (Peter Thomson) is the current President of the UN General Assembly.
As you know, he has made the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals – including SDG 14 on the oceans and seas – the key priority of his presidency. And there is no doubt about our commitment to seeing this process through.
As a former naval commander, I have a particular personal interest in the health of our oceans and seas. I have been unfortunate enough to witness, at first hand, the decline in the health of the seas around Fiji over the years. Whereas we once had waters teeming with fish, there is now clear evidence of overfishing, with all that entails for the welfare and prosperity of our coastal communities. Because, of course, not only do we rely on fish for food but it is also a major source of income for our people.
I’ve also seen the gradual worsening over time of water quality – our seas increasingly polluted by plastic bottles and containers and other refuse. Much of this is carried to us by the ocean currents from the nations of the Pacific Rim. And we must all work in a concerted manner to persuade the nations of the world to stop dumping their rubbish in the Pacific and other oceans and seas.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I will be in New York next June as one of the Conference Co-Presidents. So I want to use this opportunity to urge my fellow leaders from around the world to join us. And to urge you – the men and women of the media – to highlight the importance of this conference for everyone on the planet, no matter where they live.
We must act now to save our oceans and seas. Not only for ourselves but for the sake of the generations to come.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.