Small islands urge action at UN Oceans meet

Faced with rising sea levels, dying coral reefs and decreasing fish stocks, small island developing states (SIDS) are feeling the effects of ocean decline, and they want wealthier countries to do more to ensure the survival of the world’s seas and other waterways.

“We are seeing the threat that fisheries will collapse, the threat of tourism-collapse and the loss of biodiversity,” said Rolph Payet, special advisor to the President of the Seychelles.

“Some people think that this is just a simple matter to be brushed aside, and to continue with business as usual, emitting greenhouse gases (GhGs) as usual,” Payet said. “The data shows us that we should be worried, and we should be acting. In fact we should have acted yesterday,” he said.

His comments came at the fifth Global Oceans Conference taking place here at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The May 3-7 meeting has brought together 823 delegates from 80 countries, including many developing nations.

As participants discussed ways to preserve marine biodiversity and improve management of the oceans, small islands reiterated calls they made at last year’s Copenhagen climate change summit for greater cuts in carbon emissions.

Such cuts are necessary to reduce or stabilise rising temperatures and to halt ocean acidification which scientists say is detrimental to marine life. According to statistics from the environmental group Greenpeace, the oceans have absorbed some 70 percent of the “human-created carbon overload” to date, altering the chemical balance of sea water and making it less alkaline, or more “acidic”.

“The situation sends shivers up my spine because not many people know the consequences of ocean acidification,” said Payet. “It reaches way down and will affect our children’s children.”

A. D. McKenzie, IPS, 7 May 2010. Full article.

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