Maldives’ Ocean Biodiversity Powers the Economy, but Global Support Needed to Sustain: Shauna

The Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, Aminath Shauna, on Tuesday, emphasised the importance of adopting the worldwide aim of protecting 30 per cent of the global ocean and utilising 100 per cent of the ocean sustainably. She made the remarks, delivering a statement as the special representative of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, at the general plenary debate of the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference.

The conference, co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya, is held in Lisbon from June 27 to July 1, 2022. Delivering the statement, Minister Shauna stated that urgent and effective measures, including the adoption of a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, are necessary to protect the ocean.

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Minister Shauna spoke about how the lives of every Maldivian are intricately bound to the ocean and noted that the Maldives’ rich ocean biodiversity powers the economy, contributing over two-thirds of employment and 60 per cent of the GDP. She also said that the oceans are an asset to the Maldives, attracting visitors worldwide and sustaining the Maldives’ tourism industry.

The Minister also spoke about how human activities are causing ocean acidification and affecting the migratory patterns of fish, putting our primary food source at risk. She also highlighted the consequences of climate change on the Maldives’ coral reefs. Noting the devastation caused to the Maldives’ marine ecosystem by plastic pollution, the Minister called for increased global ambition and action to preserve the health and wealth of the ocean.

Minister Shauna emphasised that Maldivians do not wish to stand idly while the oceans are dying, stressing several efforts the Maldives uses for ocean-friendly fishing. She said that those include using traditional pole-and-line fishing methods with zero bycatches and enacting legislation to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which at present is a severe threat to sustainable small-scale fisheries and coastal fishing communities like the Maldives. She also called upon the international community to show their resolve to end IUU fishing.

Moreover, Minister Shauna stated that despite these, the Maldives is subject to high import tariffs from some of the main markets on our fish exports and stressed that sustainability should be economically viable, and for that, we need global support.

Minister Shauna also noted President Solih’s decision to ban the import, production, and sale of 13 single-use plastics, aiming to phase out their use by the end of 2030. She also highlighted that 79 marine areas have been designated as protected sites, including 14 per cent of the coral reefs.

Despite these efforts, she added that one country cannot protect and preserve the oceans alone, and she called for unified global action in which sustainable fisheries are the norm and countries adopt development practises that include ocean protection and climate resilience. In conclusion, she stated that we need to save our coral reefs by limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

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