Ocean plastic pollution was a focus at the recent UN oceans conference, which issued a declaration in support of an earlier decision by the UN Environment Assembly to start negotiations for a global plastics treaty. IMO also participated in the conference, highlighting its commitment to addressing climate change ocean issues for a more sustainable future.
ighlighting the important role of science, technology and innovation in overcoming hurdles to achieving Goal 14 — a major theme throughout the week — high level participants of the UN Conference in last June pointed to better understanding the impact of cumulative human activity on the ocean; shoring up fish stock to levels that produce at least maximum sustainable yield in the shortest time feasible; and mobilizing actions for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, among other measure.
Drawing attention to marine pollution, they stressed the value of preventing and eliminating marine plastic litter, such as single-use plastics and microplastics, through resource efficiency and recycling, ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns and developing viable alternatives for consumer and industrial uses.
According to an article published in The Conversation UK, fishing vessels account for half of ocean plastic pollution. In particular, an estimated half of ocean plastic pollution comes from some 4.5 million fishing vessels operating in national and international waters. Recent research suggests more than 100 million pounds of plastic enters the oceans from industrial fishing gear alone.
Plastic waste from fishing vessels includes lost and deliberately abandoned fishing gear such as nets, pots, floats, crates and fish aggregation devices (FADs).
The article mentions that plastic pollution has become an issue for regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) which collaborate with the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation on various initiatives to minimise the loss of fishing gear and the effects of ghost fishing. For example, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which manages fisheries in the Southern Ocean, bans the use of plastic packaging bands on most vessels.
Overall, there are many actions to take to tackle climate change ocean pollution; from not buying single-use plastic products to consuming more sustainable seafood, we can make a difference. UN suggests the following ten actions:
#1 Save energy at home
Much of our electricity and heat are powered by coal, oil and gas. Use less energy by lowering your heating and cooling, switching to LED light bulbs and energy-efficient electric appliances, washing your laundry with cold water, or hanging things to dry instead of using a dryer.
#2 Walk, bike, or take public transport
The world’s roadways are clogged with vehicles, most of them burning diesel or gasoline. Walking or riding a bike instead of driving will reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and help your health and fitness. For longer distances, consider taking a train or bus. And carpool whenever possible
#3 Eat more vegetables
Eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and less meat and dairy, can significantly lower your environmental impact. Producing plant-based foods generally results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and requires less energy, land, and water.
#4 Consider your travel
Airplanes burn large amounts of fossil fuels, producing significant greenhouse gas emissions. That makes taking fewer flights one of the fastest ways to reduce your environmental impact. When you can, meet virtually, take a train, or skip that long-distance trip altogether.
#5 Throw away less food
When you throw food away, you’re also wasting the resources and energy that were used to grow, produce, package, and transport it. And when food rots in a landfill, it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. So use what you buy and compost any leftovers.
#6 Reduce, reuse, repair & recycle
Electronics, clothes, and other items we buy cause carbon emissions at each point in production, from the extraction of raw materials to manufacturing and transporting goods to market. To protect our climate, buy fewer things, shop second-hand, repair what you can, and recycle.
#7 Change your home’s source of energy
Ask your utility company if your home energy comes from oil, coal or gas. If possible, see if you can switch to renewable sources such as wind or solar. Or install solar panels on your roof to generate energy for your home.
#8 Switch to an electric vehicle
If you plan to buy a car, consider going electric, with more and cheaper models coming on the market. Even if they still run on electricity produced from fossil fuels, electric cars help reduce air pollution and cause significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gas or diesel-powered vehicles.
#9 Choose eco-friendly products
Everything we spend money on affects the planet. You have the power to choose which goods and services you support. To reduce your environmental impact, buy local and seasonal foods, and choose products from companies who use resources responsibly and are committed to cutting their gas emissions and waste.
#10 Speak up
Speak up and get others to join in taking action. It’s one of the quickest and most effective ways to make a difference. Talk to your neighbors, colleagues, friends, and family. Let business owners know you support bold changes. Appeal to local and world leaders to act now.