Speech at the opening of the Global Oceans Action Summit

Statement by the Minister for Agriculture, Sharon Dijksma, at the opening of the Global Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth,22 april 2014

Distinguished Excellencies, Mayor of The Hague, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor for me to open the Global Oceans Action Summit for Food Security and Blue Growth in the beautiful city of The Hague in The Netherlands.

"For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it." As Jacques-Yves Cousteau, one of the most important leaders for the Oceans, said.

Do we dare dear Ladies and Gentlemen ? Do we dare to grow smarter today? Do we dare to fish smarter today and do we dare to preserve our natural resources today, tomorrow and in the future? That’s the 9 billion people question. Are we really willing to stop the moral outcry that still almost 1 billion go hungry to bed every day? Are we really willing to stop the overexploitation of our natural reources, especially fish stocks?

You, we, as global leaders, ocean practitioners, businesses, scientist, NGO's, civil society and international organisations have to find answers to these the questions the coming days.

This summit is about sharing experiences, but more over demonstrating how combined action in partnerships for healthier and productive oceans can drive sustainable growth and shared prosperity while preserving our natural resources for future generations.

Face the facts

Let us be honest to each other, we know many of the answers to arrive at sustainable fisheries and to arrive at worldwide food security.

Let’s face the facts.

80% of all life on the planet is found in the oceans. The ocean provides a global life support system that helps regulate climate and supplies half of the planet’s oxygen needed for one in every two breaths that we take.

Of course food security can not be sustained without sustainable fisheries. Fish contributes 17 percent of the animal protein consumed by the world’s population and thus is a critical source of food, with demand expected to double in the next twenty years.

Currently 3 billion people depend on fish for twenty percent of their average per capita intake of animal protein.

About 660–820 million livelihoods, or 10–12 percent of the world’s population, are dependent on the fisheries.

FAO reports show that 97 percent of the livelihoods that are directly dependent on fisheries and aquaculture occur in developing countries, mostly via small-scale operations in Asia.

So healthy seas and oceans are key to rising to our challenge.

But three key threats to ocean health – overfishing, habitat change and pollution – affect our ability to use the oceans to drive sustainable fisheries, strong economies and healthy communities.

Actions to solve these threats have often been unsuccessful. Moreover, they have contributed to the tensions between (i) growth and conservation, (ii) private sector interests and equitable benefits for communities.

Wave for the World

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need a new Wave For the world.

Fisheries and aquaculture generate considerable social and economic benefits for hundreds of millions of people around the world. These activities have the potential to increase their contribution to human well-being and growth. But these activities have also inevitable impact on biodiversity and the environment.

In 1992 in Rio we agreed many goals such as to implement the Maximum Sustainable Yield Approach for fisheries by 2015. We are not even close today.

The good news is we are making progress, bad news is if we don’t step up our efforts there is no fish left by 2030. The only way forward is bringing together stakeholders from across the public-private-civil society spheres to co-design solutions that can achieve healthy oceans at the speed and scale necessary to meet the challenges we face.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

How do we turn the tide.

First of all we should go back to the basis. We should learn from concrete success stories where competing interests can be reconciled with a view to identifying actions, partnerships and financing that can help scale up activities that ultimately result in shared prosperity today and for future generations. Of course governments play a key role in addressing the challenges, acting on their own and in concert with others. But fish has no boundaries. Regional cooperation is becoming even more important nowadays. More emphasis should be given through international cooperation and especially via for example Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.

Furthermore partnerships agreements between EU and other countries should include a much broader approach focusing not only on sustainable fisheries, but also local communities and protected areas as well as habitats.

For me the crucial elements for sustainable fisheries are:

  • More selective fisheries methods;
  • Innovation and;
  • A discard ban, which is workable and implementable for our fishermen.

Innovations can really make a difference. In a tri-partite cooperation between the fishery sector, Wageningen University and Research Center and the Netherlands government we developed a much more selective fishery method, the pulskor. It is environmentally sound because it doesn't disturb our seabed’s and uses half of the fuel. We are more than willing to share this innovative technique with you.

Sustainable relationship with our oceans

Delegates,

Local communities are the key to implement sustainable growth and fisheries, promote changes across the entire production chain, and put fairness and the environment at its heart. Strong momentum exists to reshape the context in which the fishery sector, independently of its scale, currently operates in order to ensure sustainable growth with equitable benefits for communities.

Last but not least we can significantly increase blue growth and global food fish production from both sustainable aquaculture and sustainable fisheries by adopting best practices and reducing environmental risk to stimulate investment.

We can enable the world's overfished stocks to be rebuilt and increase the annual net benefits of capture fisheries by at least $20 billion, including through reducing subsidies that promote overfishing and by encouraging responsible governance of tenure. We need these approaches and together we need also:

halve the current rate of natural habitat loss and reducing habitat degradation and fragmentation, by applying ecosystem-based approaches to management;

Increase marine managed and protected areas, and other effective area-based conservation measures, to include at least 10% of coastal and marine areas;

Conserve and restore natural coastal habitats to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to climate change impacts.

We will therefore have to learn to build a more sustainable relationship with our oceans. Because they are vital for food production, economic growth and food security. We have to step up our efforts, that why the Netherlands, in cooperation with the World Bank, FAO, Indonesia, Grenada, United States and Norway organized this Summit. Joint urgent action of the global community is needed to address the threats facing our oceans. Local successful innovations should be identified and scaled up in all regions. Our joint ambition should no less than identifying these and developing a strategic roadmap for actions.

"It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert." Jacques-Yves Cousteau said.

I invite you all to join me in the new Wave for the World.

Thank you.