Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Statement at the Ocean March and the launch of "Sea My Life", joint UNDP-GEF publication

Jun 4, 2017

Honoured Guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure and privilege to welcome you all to the UNDP Partnership Boat on the eve of the United Nations Ocean Conference. The ocean is the ‘blue heart’ of our planet.  It provides food, coastal protection, oxygen, and many other ecosystem goods and services that are essential for supporting livelihoods and jobs.  We also know that this heart is in a state of deep distress. And without safeguarding oceans, achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda will be impossible. 

Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, are cornerstones of global efforts to safeguard the marine biodiversity and the future of humanity.  SDG target 14.5 aims to increase the global MPA network to at least 10% of the Ocean areas. This is common sense and economic sense.  Economic rate of returns in expanding networks of MPAs is as high as 24 percent.

That is why, over the past decade, UNDP, with GEF, has supported the establishment and management of a wide variety of MPAs, covering an area of more than 177.6 million hectares, in 48 developing countries.

It is most fitting that we are launching a new publication [Sea, my Life: Protecting Oceans, Sustaining the Future] on a boat.  Don’t worry! We won’t actually be visiting the MPAs. That would take a long time. The book saves us the journey but does take us on a wonderful MPA voyage around the world, stopping in 15 countries. Destinations range from the cold, nutrient-rich waters of the Humboldt Current Large Marine Ecosystem off the coasts of Chile and Peru, to the coastal fishing grounds of Turkey and India, the spectacular coral reefs of the tropical seas of East Asia, and the mangroves of Tonga in the South Pacific. 

The case studies presented in the book demonstrate how investments in marine protected areas can boost the health of oceanic and coastal ecosystems, strengthen resilience in the face of climate change, sustain fisheries and other economic activities, and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life of all people including the world’s poorest communities.

At each page and port of call we discover fascinating aspects of the marine life these MPAs protect – as described in the ‘Deep Sea Secrets’ section of each chapter.  We “meet” the people (or ‘Eyewitnesses’) whose lives are inextricably linked with these areas. Their stories tell of the transformational impacts that the featured projects have catalysed.

In each chapter, the ‘In Fine Focus’ column provides insights into the environmental and development issues that each situation presents, and the ways in which they are being addressed.

Key achievements are summarised as ‘Cardinal Points.’  And, finally, insights on implementation challenges (and how they were overcome), and key lessons learnt, are given in a ‘Message from the Crew’ – people within UNDP and our partner institutions who have worked tirelessly to support the implementation of the featured work.

Let me give you a few examples to illustrate the kinds of results you will read about in this book:

In Tonga, rehabilitation of the Fanga’uta Lagoon and Marine Reserve is being achieved through a ridge-to-reef approach to managing pollution, and community-led restoration of mangrove forests. This is leading to recovery of fish stocks, securing the fishing-based livelihoods and futures of the people of this Small Island Developing State.

In Jordan, better management of the Gulf of Aqaba has led to more careful economic and infrastructure development.  Relocation of over 7,000 coral reef colonies from the new port site in the Gulf to the Aqaba Marine Park, has saved unique and spectacular species of soft and hard corals, with important economic benefits – these coral reefs form the backbone of the multi-million dollar scuba-diving industry that supports many jobs in this region, while serving as adaptive measures to climate change.

You will also read of the impressive Voluntary Commitments being made by the countries that have participated in these projects. For example, in the Seychelles, the government has committed to bring 30 % of its marine territory under formal protection. And in the Maldives, the government aims to have the entire archipelago declared as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

We look forward to journeying into the future as we work together to place sustainable use and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems at the very heart of the sustainable development agenda.

Bon Voyage !

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