Calls to sign the High Seas Treaty and pledges of funds to protect the oceans

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Calls to sign the High Seas Treaty and pledges of funds to protect the oceans

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Grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) swim in the ocean near reefs of corals in French Polynesia.

Calls to quickly adopt an international treaty discussed at the UN to protect international waters and the announcement by the European Union and the United States of funds dedicated to the protection of the oceans dominated the first day Thursday of the international conference “Our Ocean”, in Panama.

The Our Ocean conference is incredibly important because it is a conference focused on action, not words. This is about real commitments and real solutions, said White House climate envoy John Kerry opening the meeting.

Taking him at his word, the European Union (EU) announced in a press release that in 2023 it would devote more than 800 million euros to programs for the protection of the sea: the EU confirms its strong commitment to international ocean governance by announcing 39 concrete commitments for the year 2023. These actions will be funded to the tune of 816.5 million euros [1.7 billion Canadian dollars].< /p>

The United States will commit $6 billion to 77 projects to protect the seas, Mr. Kerry announced.

Some 600 government, business and NGO delegates will continue discussing on Friday the blue economy framework for the sustainable use and protection of seas and oceans.

Friday will be more particularly devoted to the fight against illegal fishing, several organizations have joined forces to demand more transparency from governments regarding overfishing.

A school of fish in the ocean

A third of commercial [sea] species are overfished, noted Monica Espinoza of Global Fishing Watch, an NGO that monitors boats via satellite.

Governments must demand that their fishing fleets are trackable, all the time, by satellite so we know they are fishing honestly, Andrew Sharpless, chief executive of the NGO Oceana, told AFP.

Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo opened the conference by signing a decree expanding the protected maritime zone of Banco Volcan (Caribbean Sea) from 14,000 to 93,000 square kilometers.

Thus, Panama will protect 54.33% of its exclusive maritime zone, Panamanian Environment Minister Milciades Concepcion said.

Among other initiatives, John Kerry announced that the United United, Panama and Fiji had begun discussions for the creation of ecological maritime corridors for the circulation of merchant ships.

These corridors would be reserved for ships with low or zero carbon emissions, according to experts. They would also help fight illegal fishing and protect marine species from overfishing.

In a pre-summit meeting, representatives from the European Union, the United States, Latin America and the Pacific Islands called on the New York negotiators of the High Seas Treaty , under discussion for more than fifteen years at the UN, to reach a conclusion as soon as possible.

Let's seal the deal, said the Secretary of State French at the Sea, Hervé Berville. We're pretty close, according to US State Department oceans official Maxine Burkett.

The high seas begin where the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of the States end, at a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coasts and are therefore not under the jurisdiction of any country.

Representing more than 60% of the oceans and almost half of the planet, it is crucial for the protection of the entire ocean, itself vital for humanity , but threatened by climate change, pollution and overfishing.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on negotiators from member countries meeting in New York since February 20 until Friday to finally conclude a “robust and ambitious” treaty on the high seas.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General. (File photo)

Our ocean has been under pressure for decades. We can no longer ignore the urgency for the ocean, he said.

The Our Ocean conferences were launched in 2014 at the; initiative of John Kerry, then head of the American diplomacy, and offer a unique forum to address all issues related to the sea.

In Panama there are more than 200 NGOs, 60 centers of research, 14 philanthropy structures and a hundred companies and international organizations.

Participants will not proceed to any vote and will not adopt an agreement , but will announce voluntary commitments.

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