9 Pacific countries sign ocean-protection pact on Americas summit sidelines

Los Angeles, US, Jun 9 (EFE).- Nine countries of the Americas with Pacific coastlines signed a high-level, ocean protection agreement Thursday on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas, calling the pact a necessary step in a “fight for survival.”

“Today’s a very good day for the conservation of the oceans, but also for humanity,” Chilean President Gabriel Boric, the driving force behind that initiative that is part of the “turquoise diplomacy” (for the green of terrestrial biodiversity and blue of the oceans) that he advocates, said during the signing ceremony.

The other statesmen signing the pact along with Boric were the presidents of Colombia, Ivan Duque; Peru, Pedro Castillo; Costa Rica, Rodrigo Chaves; Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso; and Panama, Laurentino Cortizo, as well as Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and the United States’ special presidential envoy for climate, John Kerry.

The initiative launched Thursday, according to Boric, supports the commitments those countries made as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The idea, according to the Chilean president, was to make a binding pledge to tackle “three of the biggest crises affecting the world,” which are climate change, biodiversity loss and ocean deterioration.

“We’re going to work to establish a series of marine protected areas that will be ecologically interconnected, advancing toward regional strategies for ocean conservation,” Boric said.

The United Nations has warned for decades about the steady deterioration of the planet’s oceans due both to longstanding problems like unsustainable fishing and more recent ones such as microplastic pollution.

Since the UN began drawing attention to the microplastics problem in the middle of the last decade, it says an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste per year are making their way into the world’s oceans.

Those harmful particles can then be ingested by fish and end up in their muscle tissue, the part that humans typically consume.

Duque, for his part, noted that ocean deterioration is also being caused by destructive fishing practices, particularly by a method known as bottom trawling whereby a weighted net is dragged along the ocean floor to catch seafood such as flounder, shrimp and crab.

He also warned that coral reef systems, which are located in shallow water near shore, are particularly vulnerable to ocean deterioration.

Scientists say those diverse marine ecosystems are under threat from higher ocean temperatures and changing ocean chemistry.

In presenting the environmental pact launched Thursday, Boric hailed the “multilateralism” on display at the gathering and the “opportunity for dialogue” it had provided.

“The oceans,” he added, “are the (world’s) main natural carbon sinks and, as such, play a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change.”

The pact signed Thursday links the region’s Pacific nations, but it also serves as a call to action for other regions and countries – including China, Russia, India and the European Union – that can also contribute to these same ocean-conservation efforts.

“We know the climate crisis knows no borders, and that’s why we have to take concrete steps,” the Chilean president said. EFE


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