The first UN Ocean Conference begins today in New York. The summit will bring together top marine scientists and climate-focussed diplomats for five days of talks on the sustainable development of marine resources.
Attendees will focus on ways to combat plastic pollution after a 2016 World Economic Forum report found that, under current trajectories, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
Overfishing and coral bleaching are also expected to take centre stage in New York. With over a third of the world’s population living in coastal areas—and with these regions expected to see the highest population growth in the coming decades—enormous pressure is being put on marine ecosystems. Coral bleaching, which is accelerated by climate change, destroys the habitats of marine life and exacerbates existing issues with overfishing.
Small island nations are most exposed to changes in the marine ecosystems and will take a strong pro-protection stance at the conference. Expect a push to protect 10% of the world’s marine environments by 2020, a target set in 2015.