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World Oceans Day

Today, 8 June 2009, is World Oceans Day. Are cetaceans and crustaceans around the world whooping with joy? It is more likely that they are protesting against the abominable state of the seas and oceans. In a statement issued to mark the occasion, the United Nations Secretary-General said that World Oceans Day offered “an opportunity to recognize the considerable challenges we face in maintaining their capacity to regulate the global climate, supply essential ecosystem services and provide sustainable livelihoods and safe recreation.” The Secretary-General went on to outline the threats posed by unsustainable fishing, sea-level rise, increased sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and trafficking of persons and the continuing scourge of piracy. It is all a very gloomy picture and there would seem to be little to celebrate. Summing up, the Secretary-General urged the world to “do more to implement [the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention] and to uphold the rule of law on the seas and oceans.” So what can we expect?
World Oceans Day comes just before the annual cycle of law of the sea meetings begins at the United Nations. The Informal Consultative Process will take place between 17 and 19 June, whereas the following week (22 to 26 June) sees the 19th Meeting of the States Parties to the Law of the Sea Convention. From 31 August to 4 September, an ad hoc working group of the General Assembly will meet to discuss how to establish a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects. This last issue has been on the agenda of the United Nations for a number of years, but little progress has been made. In fact the deadline of 2004 set by the World Summit on Sustainable Development has been woefully missed. Let’s just hope that states manage to reach some sort of agreement later this year and that the resulting process will assist the world in meeting some of the challenges set out by the Secretary-General in his World Oceans Day message. If so, next year, we may be able to mark World Oceans Day by celebrating some of the progress made by the international community on this front.
Read the full message on World Oceans Day.

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