High-level representatives from UN member states and international organisations gathered on Friday, March 1, 2019 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to celebrate the UN World Wildlife Day under the theme “Life below water: for people and planet”.
The benefits of marine and coastal resources are enormous. Over three billion people depend on these resources for their livelihoods globally. The market value of marine and coastal resources and related industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year, about 5% of global GDP. Alarmingly, despite its critical importance, life below water faces many threats, amongst them an area of primary concern for CITES, which is their unsustainable exploitation for international trade. Over 30% of commercially exploited marine fish stocks are overfished.
Jointly organised by the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the event was attended by senior government officials, international organisations dealing with fisheries such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), conservation leaders, the private sector, celebrity advocates and youth representatives.
The UN Secretary-General provided a message for World Wildlife Day 2019.
The speakers and expert panelists shared with the audience their experiences and views on the crucial contributions of life below water to sustainable development as well as the challenges faced in ensuring its conservation and sustainable use, while highlighting solutions to address them.
World Wildlife Day 2019, which falls on 3 March, focuses on marine species and aligns closely with the Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life below water. It is an opportunity to raise awareness about the breathtaking diversity of marine wildlife, the benefits it brings to our everyday lives as well as ways to ensure that it can continue to do so for generations to come.
CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, said: “This is the first World Wildlife Day that focuses on life below water. We are all striving to achieve the same objective of sustainability: for people and planet – where wildlife, be it terrestrial or marine, can thrive in the wild while also benefiting people. We, here at CITES, will continue to work tirelessly to ensure international trade in CITES-listed marine species is legal, sustainable and traceable for people, planet and prosperity.”
“Some five to 12 million tonnes of plastic now enter the ocean every year, threatening the health of countless species – from the smallest zooplankton to the largest whales. 90% of large predators have already been taken out of the ocean by overfishing, some 30% of fish stocks are overexploited, and over 500 hypoxic areas have become ‘dead zones’ uninhabitable for most species,” said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “To reverse this, a literal ‘sea change’ is required in how we manage both ocean and land-based activities, across sectors ranging from fisheries to agriculture to waste management.”
FAO Assistant-Director General, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Árni M. Mathiesen, said: “FAO welcomes the decision to focus on marine species at this year’s World Wildlife Day, as it builds on international recognition of the importance of conserving and sustainably using life under water. FAO and CITES continue to work jointly on CITES species listings, supporting countries and ensuring that decisions complement established fisheries management approaches worldwide.”
As part of the World Wildlife Day activities, the CITES Secretariat and UNDP partnered with the Jackson Hole WILD to organise the Living Oceans Film Showcase focusing on marine species. The Film Showcase aims is to galvanise the power of media to inspire wonder, catalyse change and move the dial on the conservation and sustainable use of marine species and highlight inspiring solutions.
CITES and UNDP also partnered with the International Fund for Animal Welfare to organise an international youth art contest as an effort to engage school-aged children and help them build a sense of connection with the marine world.
Winners of the Living Oceans Film Showcase and the youth art contest were announced during the high-level event at the UN Headquarters.