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IOCS co-hosts event at 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly

On Thursday September 22, 2016, the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, through it’s work with the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance and the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, co-hosted a high level event during the 71st United Nations General Assembly entitled “10x20 Initiative on Marine Protected Areas: Achieving the Promise to Protect the Oceans and Seas.” Attendees of the symposium were greeted by President-Elect of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji, along with Co-Founder of the Ocean Sanctuary Alliance Dr. Amir Dossal.

Over the last year, countries from all over the world have come together around Sustainable Development Goal 14, Target 5: to protect at least 10% of ocean and coastal areas by the year 2020. Speakers at this high level event included Ministers from 34 countries along with specialists in awareness and communication.

The event highlighted the recent successes of marine protected areas (MPAs), including the recent Papahanaumokuakea (pronounced “Papa-ha-now-moh-koo-ah-kay-ah”) and Northeast Canyons Marine National Monuments, France’s efforts to protect 21% of their waters as early as 2017, and The Bahamas’s plan to achieve 20% protection by 2020. Curaçao’s Minister spoke of the advances it has made through a partnership with the Smithsonian research program, which uses an underwater submersible to map coral reef systems and monitor change.

Guest speakers spoke of the importance that public awareness brings toward reaching conservation goals. Montel Williams, Special Envoy to the UN’s Save Our Sharks Coalition, passionately conveyed to diplomats the importance of reaching the next generation, and how messaging needs to focus on how ocean life can be worth more left in the water rather than landed on fishing docks—citing sharks as an example. Dr. Karen Sack relayed a message from Sir Richard Branson, which implored the UN member states to provide “even more leadership – more vision, courage and character when it comes to protecting this wonderful Earth system” and meeting the SDG targets and beyond.

Developing countries, including Kenya and Tonga, expressed desire to build protected areas in their countries in order to safeguard endemic marine species and critical habitat, with help from the scientific and broader MPA community for implementation, financing, and monitoring tools.

Deputy Foreign Minister Söder of Sweden closed the event by announcing upcoming increases in ocean protection both within domestic waters and through its leadership in sponsoring and convening a major oceans conference at the UN in New York in June 2017.

See photos here.

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