Monday, 13 June 2016 12:52
Statement by the Republic of Maldives
on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States
at the United Nations Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea on “Marine Debris, Plastics and Micro-Plastics”
13 June 2016
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Member States of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). We align ourselves with the statement delivered by the Kingdom of Thailand on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you, distinguished Co-chairs, our esteemed panelists, and the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea for your unwavering hard work. AOSIS welcomes the theme of “Marine debris, plastics and micro-plastics”, which was established by paragraph 324 of General Assembly resolution 70/235. The issue of marine debris and plastics is critical to Small Island Developing States, and in this respect we also note with great appreciation the Secretary general’s report on the topic.
Marine debris, plastics and micro-plastics, are a global problem. The effects of plastic pollution in our oceans present an existential threat to SIDS since it has a direct bearing on our economies, marine biodiversity, food security and human health.
The most stark reminder of the magnitude of plastic pollution problem are the so-called garbage patches found everywhere from the Indian Ocean to the North Atlantic Ocean and the North-Pacific Ocean.
The term garbage “patches”, however, does not do justice to the scale and magnitude of the devastating problem we face. To put their mass into perspective, the Indian Ocean garbage patch comprises an area of at least five million square kilometres in size, but with no clear boundaries. That’s larger than South Africa and Ethiopia combined. Similarly, estimates of the size of the North Pacific Garbage Patch are as high as 15 million square kilometres. That is essentially a patch twice the size of Australia, floating around in the North Pacific. 90% of the marine debris found in all these garbage patches are plastic.
Plastic is a durable material that lasts forever in the seas, oceans and land. It does not biodegrade but breaks into smaller and smaller pieces and persist for hundreds of years. It pollutes groundwater and threatens all living things on earth. These tiny plastic particles are as small as the algae and plankton that form the basis of the entire ocean food web. It is said that in our oceans plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36 to 1. Micro plastics and their toxins get into food chains through tiny planktons. In short, all life in the oceans and seas suffers from plastic pollution.
Plastic pollution is not something that just affects marine biodiversity. It has a direct impact on food security, on fishing, tourism, and on our very livelihoods. This pressure is felt even more acutely by small island developing states like ours, as embodied in the SAMOA Pathway.
The issue of plastics in our oceans has a direct bearing on the realization of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and many of the goals and targets under it. Millions around the world are dependent on fish as a primary food source. Tourism, in island states like ours, constitutes a huge chunk of government revenue and marine debris severely affects it. Oceans issues thus, are cross cutting in nature and affect all aspects of sustainable development. In this regard, we look forward to the United Nations SDG14 Conference, as mandated by GA resolution 70/226, to be held in Fiji in June of next year.
SIDS are disproportionately affected by marine pollution and do not have the means to help curb the problem. Capacity building to increase efforts to recycle as well as retrieve marine debris is critical to sustainably manage our oceans. We urge the global community to partner with us this regard.
Apart from investments in clean-up, we also need to think differently and change the dominant discourse on marine debris. We must look at this, not as an insurmountable problem, but also as an opportunity. Research has shown the economic value in converting retrieved plastic from oceans into economically viable products that could then be sold on the market. Efforts must be made to economically incentivise clean up efforts and convert a problem into an opportunity.
Secondly, the current discourse tends to revolve around end-of-pipe solutions. However, we need to address the underlying causes of marine pollution including unsustainable consumption and production patterns. The excessive usage of plastics, the disregard for the environmental fate of products during the design and marketing stages has multiplier effects on marine pollution.
For SIDS, oceans remain one of the primary resources available to eradicate poverty, create sustainable livelihoods and economic development as well as regulate global climate and provide us with water and host the richest systems of biodiversity on earth. We will therefore continue our modest efforts to ensure conservation and sustainability of oceans, seas and marine resources and urge the global community to do the same.
I thank you.
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