New York

4 February 2014

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at the event "Healthy Oceans and Seas : A Way Forward" [as prepared for delivery]

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address you today.

I commend the Governments of Italy and Palau for organizing this important event focusing on the critical issue of how to achieve healthy oceans and seas.

As a young naval academy graduate, I learned much about the richness of, and respect for, oceans the seas.

That deep bond has only grown over the years.

There is hardly any aspect of our civilization, of our interconnected world and global economy, and of our life-supporting ecosystems, that is not in some way linked to oceans and seas.

We depend on them for jobs in fisheries, shipping and shipbuilding, ports and tourism.

They are crucial sources of food and nutrition, the primary regulator of the climate and an important sink for greenhouse gases.  A very high percentage of global trade is seaborne.

Yet despite our dependence on oceans and seas, we are not doing enough to conserve, protect and sustainably manage their resources.

Human activity and climate change are hampering the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and their related ecosystems.

Some of the negative factors are over-exploitation, illegal, unreported and destructive fishing practices, criminal activity, marine pollution from litter and land based sources, as well as increased sea temperatures, sea-level rise and ocean acidification just to name a few.

At the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, Member States recognized that these problems must be confronted head on.

They pledged to protect and restore the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity.  And they set forth forward-looking, inter-connected and integrated actions in some 20 areas. These commitments represent a remarkable consensus on the way forward.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is of course a key touchstone for this work, along with other international legal instruments.

The oceans are our common heritage and responsibility.

We at the United Nations look forward to working with all stakeholders to achieve healthy oceans and sustainable development for all, recognising that oceans and seas are critical to the development of many countries, not least Small Island Developing States.

The Secretary-General remains committed to supporting Member States in addressing ocean-related challenges and protecting marine biodiversity.

Reaching our goals will require conservation, but also innovation, not least including through the power of technology.  I look forward to the ideas that will be presented here today.

I wish you a productive meeting.

Thank you.