'Our Ocean' conference tackling plastic waste and other threats to our seas

In Malta, experts from around the world have come together at an EU-hosted conference to seek measures to protect our oceans. The conference's aim is to establish concrete projects worldwide. Will they succeed?

Plastic is now "on the menu," Britain's Prince Charles said as he kicked off the Our Ocean conference on Thursday, warning that "we are very close to reaching the point when whatever wild-caught fish you eat will contain plastic."

Nature and Environment | 05.10.2017

With heads of government or senior officials from more than 60 countries attending, the European Union-backed conference in Malta's capital Valletta announced a push for commitments to reduce marine pollution, manage aquatic resources and mitigate climate change.

The heir to the British throne said that with eight million tons of plastic waste entering the oceans annually, the world must switch from "throw-away, convenience lifestyles" to a recycling economy.

He also pushed for a stop to overfishing by ending "perverse" government subsidies and promoting investments in sustainable ocean economies.

Nature and Environment | 21.07.2017

Prince Charles first spoke publicly about environmental issues in the 1960s and has criticized climate change sceptics many times since, including at the Paris climate summit in 2015.

Get into action

He also "reminded us that the deterioration of the coral reefs is both a tragedy and a serious wakeup call," said spokesperson Sophie Hulme of Ocean Unite. "He called for brave decisions from everybody in the room and restated his own personal commitment to protect the planet."

Speakers at the conference also include Afroz Shah, a lawyer and counsel at Bombay High Court in India.

"He gave an emotional plea for more action around plastic reduction," said Hulme, "and reminded us that it all starts with the individual. We litter because we have lost the sense of belonging."

Our Ocean conferences have been taking place annually since 2014. Their aim is to bring together world leaders and motivate them to finance concrete projects.

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In hosting the Our Ocean 2017 conference, the EU pledged 550 million euros ($645 million) to support a slew of measures to improve ocean health.

According to the Our Ocean website, the conference scheme has kicked off about 250 projects, committing over 8 billion Euros and designating nearly 10 million square kilometers as new Marine Protected Areas since 2014.

Marine reserves and a plastic bag ban

Chile's Minister of Foreign Affairs Heraldo Munoz announced to ban plastic bags in his country's coastal communities.

That would make Chile the first country in the Americas to do so, ocean lovers commented on Twitter

Heraldo Munoz also announced the creation of two new marine protected areas around Chile. One of the marine reserve will comprise an area the size of France around Easter island.


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Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument

Covering an area of almost 1.3 million square kilometers (800,000 square miles), this is among the world's largest marine protected areas. Located in the western Pacific Ocean, it is home to all manner of marine life including green turtles, pearl oysters, giant clams, reef sharks, coconut crabs, dolphins and whales.

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Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve

Surrounding this British Overseas Territory lies the largest contiguous marine protected area in the world. The 834,334 square kilometers of pristine ocean habitat are monitored via satellite to track potential illegal fishing activity in this vast and remote corner of the South Pacific.

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The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Situated off the northeastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest in the world. A vast area of that reef, which is so big it can be seen from space, forms the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The reef saw devastating coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017. In an effort to protect the delicate ecosystem, fishing is strictly regulated and commercial ships can only use certain routes.

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Galapagos Marine Reserve

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Bowie Seamount marine protected area

The Bowie Seamount is an underwater volcano located 180 kilometers off the west coast of Canada. Although the volcano rises about 3,000 meters from the ocean bed, its highest point is 24 meters below sea level. While it may be invisible to those of us living above water, the submerged mountain is home to a rich mix of marine fauna and flora.

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Chagos archipelago

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The Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park

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The Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals

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Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area

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Aquatic Reserve of the South of Gabon

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Cook Islands Marine Park

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