One Ocean, Achieving Sustainability through Sanctuaries

Remarks by H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Maldives to the United Nations

United Nations, New York, 5 March 2015


Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen,


It is a great honour for me to be in the presence of Honorable Tommy Remengesau, President of Palau. I applaud His Excellency and the Government of Palau for their leadership in organizing this important event.


Although you have introduced me as the Chair of AOSIS, my remarks today are on behalf of the Maldives in its national capacity. Maldives is delighted to be in any event devoted to the sustainability of oceans, to which Maldivians depend upon for their livelihood.


The Maldives is an archipelago of 1190 Islands with a geographical territory of 99 % sea and a mere 1% land.  Our people have been a fishing community for generations. Together with tourism, we have relied on the beauty of our oceans and coral reefs for generating economic wealth. At the same time oceans have been our main mode of transport, and the marine resources account for our main guarantee of food security.


We have always considered Small Island States as large Ocean states.  Challenges faced by Oceans, Seas and Marine Biodiversity in SIDS are immense. They are critical to sustainable development and poverty eradication by supporting life, driving the climate, hydrological services, as well providing vital resources and ecosystem services for humans.   Oceans, seas and surrounding coral reefs are critical for global food security, sustainable economic prosperity and also for the  well-being of many national economies, particularly in SIDS.


The Maldives attach great importance to oceans in an international sustainable development agenda, because most of the threats to our oceans economy today are trans-boundary in nature and cannot be addressed by us domestically.  We need to work together to make a difference and also to make sure that our natural resources are protected for future generations.


Healthy, productive, and resilient oceans, coral reefs and seas not only underpin our economies as SIDS, they form the very foundation of our identities.  This vitality has always depended, and will continue to depend on our ability to sustainably manage and conserve our oceans and seas.


What’s more, Oceans and the earth’s marine systems support life for people everywhere: From providing good jobs, to regulating the global climate, to sequestering greenhouse gases, to providing water and the air we breathe, oceans and seas are indispensible to civilization as we know it.


Unfortunately, international efforts to sustain healthy oceans, protection of coral reefs and seas are failing. Once thought to be limitless, more than 80 percent of global fish stocks are now fully or overexploited; Plastics and garbage saturate our most distant waters; Ocean acidification is decimating coral reefs and coastal habitats that once teemed with life; Impacts of climate change and associated effects to oceans, coral reefs underpins the very existence our states.

As world’s large ocean states people, the SIDS have played a critical role in advancing a sustainable marine agenda at the UN, particularly in the sustainable development processes. Our dedication and leadership resulted in strong support for a dedicated SDG on oceans, which addresses three key dimensions of sustainable development in a balanced manner.

SIDS across the world’s oceanic regions have led the international community in establishing a network of ocean sanctuaries that provide critical habitat and species protections to restore biodiversity in reefs and overexploited fisheries. At a time when a multitude of pressures have pushed marine systems to the brink, the preserves are an essential part of building resiliency.

SIDS have done important work to protect sharks in particular, which provide essential ecosystems services as apex predator and face total eradication in some cases unless diligent conservation measures are put in place.

Maldives is proud to have initiated with Palau, the Bahamas, the Marshall Islands and other countries in launching the Shark Coalition. Since 2010 we have implemented a shark sanctuary in our territorial waters.

In 2011, the Maldives embarked on a journey to expand area-based conservation measures. We declared an entire atoll, Baa Atoll in the Maldives as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. In 2013, the Maldives scaled up its commitments in response to the call for champions for the Aichi Biodiversity targets by the Convention on Biological Diversity: We are committed to extend the UNESCO biosphere reserve to our entire Exclusive Economic Zone. The Government is holding consultations to provide a clear, environmentally and economically sustainable path to implement this Vision.

And as custodians of oceans ecosystems, it is the ultimate desire of SIDS to improving the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources for future generations. But it is not fair for the world to place the burden of conservation on us alone. Working together, we can build pathways that support our sustainable development and promote conservation of the ocean.

Thank you.