March 7, 2019

World Wildlife Day Celebrates Life Below Water

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Elsa Tsioumani

7 March 2019: World Wildlife Day 2019 was observed around the globe on 3 March under the theme, ‘Life Below Water: For People and Planet,’ to raise awareness about the diversity of marine life and its importance to sustainable development. This is the first time that World Wildlife Day has focused on marine life, highlighting the need for conservation and sustainable use of marine species.

The benefits of marine and coastal resources are enormous. Over 3 billion people depend on these resources for their livelihoods globally. Human activity poses major problems for marine life, including the over-exploitation of marine species, pollution, loss of coastal habitats, and climate change resulting in ocean acidification and loss of coral reefs. International frameworks to halt or reverse these negative trends include, among others, the targets of SDG 14 (life below water) on conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, commitments under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Regional Seas Programme of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

An event organized at UN Headquarters in New York, US, by the CITES Secretariat, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and FAO brought together senior government officials and representatives of international organizations, the private sector, conservation organizations and youth who shared their experiences and views on the contribution of marine life to sustainable development, as well as challenges faced in ensuring its conservation and sustainable use.

“On this World Wildlife Day, let us raise awareness about the extraordinary diversity of marine life and the crucial importance of marine species to sustainable development. That way, we can continue to provide these services for future generations,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the occasion of the Day. CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero stressed that 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.” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner highlighted that to reverse trends of over-exploitation and pollution, “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 for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Árni Mathiesen, drew attention to ongoing cooperation between FAO and CITES on CITES species listings, aiming to support countries and ensure that decisions complement established fisheries management approaches worldwide.

To mark the Day, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) featured a story on the GEF’s Pacific Islands Oceanic Fisheries Management project implemented by UNDP. The project was launched in 2005 in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean region, focusing on building cooperation between small island developing States (SIDS). The project also developed the skills and technology to track and manage tuna stocks more effectively. Its goals were two-fold: changing behaviors to reduce 0verfishing; and shifting the benefits of the fishing industry to the people living in the region. In line with these goals, the GEF supported SIDS in reducing illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing, while improving the lives of people who rely on the industry for subsistence and employment. As a result, fish stocks in the region have rebounded, leading to an increase in legal catches in national waters of almost 60 percent between 1997 and 2012, and contributing to the economic vitality of the SIDS. In seven SIDS the management of fisheries led to a jump in the fishing sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) ranging from 50 to 1,000 percent.

Also to mark the day, the CITES Secretariat, UNDP, and Jackson Hole Wild organized the Living Oceans Showcase, a film competition which attracted more than 235 entries. Winning and finalist films will be showcased extensively at community screening events to raise global awareness of the importance of marine species and the critical challenges they face.

March 3, the day CITES was signed, was proclaimed World Wildlife Day by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in 2013.