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18-04-2024 19:32

Address by the Minister Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, Dr Maria Panayiotou, at the inaugural Commonwealth Ocean Ministers Meeting

I am deeply honoured to address this esteemed gathering at the inaugural Commonwealth Ocean Ministers Meeting, where we have convened to address one of the most pressing challenges of our time: the protection and the sustainable use of our oceans and marine ecosystems. As representatives of the diverse nations within the Commonwealth, we share a collective responsibility to safeguard these vital resources for current and future generations.

Our seas and our oceans are not only a source of inspiring beauty, but also the lifeblood of our planet. They regulate our climate, provide sustenance to billions of people and support countless species of marine life. However, despite their immense importance, our oceans are facing unprecedented threats from human activities.

Climate change combined with overfishing, plastic pollution and habitat destruction are some of the major challenges that are rapidly degrading our marine environments. These threats not only endanger marine biodiversity but also jeopardise the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on fishing, and undermine the health and well-being of people around the world.

Addressing these challenges requires coordinated international efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to the impacts of climate change and protect marine ecosystems and biodiversity.

As custodians of the oceans, it is our obligation to take urgent and decisive action to reverse these alarming trends. We shall work together to establish robust conservation measures, enforce sustainable fishing practices and combat pollution at source. This requires a coordinated and multi-faceted approach, involving governments, civil society, the private sector and local communities.

At the heart of our efforts must be a commitment to promote ocean literacy and raise awareness about the importance of marine conservation. Education and public engagement are essential tools for inspiring action and fostering a culture of stewardship towards our oceans.

As members of the Commonwealth, we have a unique opportunity to lead by example and demonstrate our collective resolve to protect our oceans. Let us seize this opportunity with courage and determination, knowing that the future of our planet depends on the actions we take today.

In conclusion, let us reaffirm our commitment to the principles of sustainability, equity, respect to international law by implementing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and further cooperation, as we strive to safeguard our oceans for generations to come. Together, we can create a future where our oceans thrive and all life flourishes.

Finally, I would like to extend my heartfelt wishes for a productive, enlightening and thoroughly enjoyable stay. May our time together be marked by fruitful discussions, meaningful connections and memories that will endure long after we have parted ways.

I now invite to the floor Her Excellency the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Right Honorable Patricia Scotland KC, for her welcome address.

Thank you.