Representation in United Kingdom

Our Ocean – Prince Charles speaks at EU-hosted conference

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Marine pollution
©iStock.com/richcarey

The EU has announced 36 initiatives to foster healthier, cleaner and safer seas at an international conference taking place today and tomorrow (5/6 October) in Malta. EU High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries are co-hosting the fourth edition of Our Ocean Conference and were joined by HRH The Prince of Wales who addressed the conference on the opening morning.

05/10/2017

With over 10 million tonnes of litter ending up in the sea each year, by 2050 our oceans could contain more plastic than fish.

The EU seeks to set an example and send a strong message of encouragement to the rest of the world to step up and take action in the face of growing ocean challenges such as plastic pollution, protection of marine life, impact of climate change and criminal activities at sea.

The commitments – amounting to over €550 million (£482m) – include:

  • more than €250 million (£219m) to fund marine and maritime research;

  • €37.5 million (£33m) to ensure maritime security and counter piracy along the south-eastern African coastline and in the Indian Ocean;

  • €23 million (£20m) of investment in marine environment monitoring under the EU's satellite monitoring programme (Copernicus) in 2017 and 2018;

  • €20 million (£17.5m) to support the management of marine protected areas in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries;

  • the launch of a prototype surveillance tool which detects ships to reveal the extent of human activities at sea;

  • draft measures to reduce the leakage of plastics into the environment by the end of 2017, as part of the EU's upcoming plastics strategy;

  • phasing-out by end 2017 all single-use plastic cups in water fountains and vending machines.

In her opening speech, High Representative Mogherini said: "The sea is a global common. It is our ocean because it belongs to humanity, to each and every human being. We all have a responsibility to preserve what's common – to preserve it as a treasure and avoid that it turns into a threat." She added: "The European Union believes that a globalised world needs a more cooperative global governance. We believe in the power of diplomacy, we invest in it, we believe and invest in the power of common rules and international institutions. And it is difficult, actually impossible, to imagine a global governance without a cooperative oceans' governance."

This morning (5 October), HRH The Prince of Wales gave a keynote speech in which he said: "As many of you know so well, the eight million tonnes of plastic that enter the sea every year – through our own doing I might add – is now almost ubiquitous. For all the plastic that we have produced since the 1950's that has ended up in the ocean is still with us in one form or another, so that wherever you swim there are particles of plastic near you and we are very close to reaching the point when whatever wild-caught fish you eat will contain plastic. Plastic is indeed now on the menu!"

Also, UK producer Jo Ruxton's "A Plastic Ocean" will be screened tomorrow evening as part of the Our Ocean film festival.

Earlier this year, the UK committed to banning plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products to protect the marine environment from avoidable microplastic pollution. It anticipates having bans on both manufacture and sale of such products in place across the whole of the UK by the end of June 2018.

More than 40 Ministers and Heads of State or Government from over 100 countries and several top managers from international companies are attending the meeting and are expected to announce more substantial and concrete pledges.

Previous Ocean conferences have been hosted by the United States (2014, 2016) and Chile (2015).

Commissioner Vella's opening speech