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Citing Economic, Environmental Benefits of Using Ocean Resources Wisely, Member States Spotlight Ambitious Actions to Create Blue Economy, as Lisbon Conference Continues

LISBON, 29 June — Government ministers and senior officials shared ambitious actions to harness the economic potential of the seas while preserving marine biodiversity, as the 2022 Ocean Conference entered its third day.

“Life Below Water” is the main consideration of the five-day United Nations Conference to Support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development. Looking towards the 2030 deadline for that Goal, many delegates highlighted the economic and environmental benefits of using ocean resources wisely.

Madagascar is determined to invest in the blue economy, Rakotosoa Rado Aimé, Director General of Blue Economy of that country, said as he outlined a robust ocean policy that focuses on sustainable aquaculture and modernized fishing villages. The fourth-largest island in the world, with thousands of kilometres of coastline, Madagascar will improve the climate resilience of its fishing sector through innovation and modern ocean governance, he said.

Zacharie Sohou, Director of the Institute of Fisheries and Oceanographic Research of Benin, highlighted the role of marine ecotourism, adding that the blue economy lies at the heart of his country’s socioeconomic life. This includes managing fish stocks and coastal erosion, improving the coastline and creating protected marine areas, he said, stressing that combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is essential to protect both marine resources and ensure food security.

Investment in the blue economy must be sustainable, Conrad Bruch, the representative of Luxembourg pointed out, noting that while aquaculture is the fastest-growing food-production sector, over-fishing and marine degradation is detrimental to the millions of people dependent on small-scale fishing. His country provides technical and financial assistance to entrepreneurs who wish to invest in the blue economy, he said, adding that despite being a small country far from the sea, Luxembourg is devoted to protecting the oceans.

Illustrating the balancing act between economic opportunity and environmental protection, Belgium’s delegate noted that his country’s shoreline contains its largest protected area but is also among the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Home to the second largest port in Europe, it is lined with offshore windmills, which have the sixth-largest capacity in the world. It is the first place where a sniffer airplane actively enforces low nitrogen and sulphur emissions from ships, he noted. “We still have the chance to say to future generations that we did what needed to be done,” he reminded delegates.

Chile, that country’s Minister for the Environment Maisa Rojas said, will follow a “turquoise foreign policy” that combines the green agenda with a blue agenda. She noted that her country is part of the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which is at the vanguard of global ocean thinking, also pointing out that 43 per cent of its jurisdictional waters have been declared as marine protected areas.

On a similar note, many delegates shared national success stories that go well beyond current targets, sounding a welcome note of optimism as the Conference arrived at its midpoint.

Panama is one of the three carbon-negative countries in the world, Milciades Concepción, its Minister for Environment reported, also noting that his country, which protects 33 per cent of its land surface area, was the first to protect 30 per cent of its maritime surface area, as of June 2021. It also increased its forest coverage by 3 per cent, bringing total national coverage to 68 per cent, and is working to make the operation of the Panama Canal, which unites the Atlantic and Pacific, carbon-neutral by 2030.

Song Sang-Keun, Vice Minister for Oceans and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea, drew attention to his country’s goal of going beyond carbon neutrality to become carbon negative. Describing an ambitious road map towards this, he said the Republic of Korea is developing ocean-based renewable energy sources such as tides, waves and currents and will spare no funds for zero-carbon shipping fuelled by green energy sources such as hydrogen and ammonia. The country plans to produce green hydrogen, he announced, also laying out a target of zero marine plastic by 2050.

Outlining Sri Lanka’s leadership in ocean action, Saranya Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake, Acting Additional Secretary for Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, noted that the country has endorsed the Global Ocean Alliance’s “30by30” target. Further it is a pioneer in Asia for developing a national framework for submarine cable protection and resilience, and leads the Commonwealth’s Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihood Action Group. Her country intends to create a protected area of 32,550 square kilometres, equal to 6.3 per cent of Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone, she said.

Eyyüp Kahraman, General Director of Environment Management of the Ministry for Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change of Türkiye, said his country’s considerable investments in protecting marine ecosystems are an example for the region. The Government has protected 1.5 million hectares of marine area and has established a monitoring network with 423 stations. He also told delegates of a “garbage vortex” in the Gulf of Iskenderun that was created by beach waste originating from Romania, France, Italy and the Czech Republic, illustrating the interconnectedness of the ocean and its litter.

Kiribati’s delegate, Teburoro Tito, recalled the nature-friendly lifestyle that was in practice prior to industrialization and globalization. Since then, rampant individualism and greed have led to unrestrained ocean exploitation, he said, holding up illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, especially by multinational corporations, as a kind of “sea terrorism”. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, a 10-year-old marine sanctuary in his country, is an effort to restore Pacific marine biodiversity, but it will benefit the entire world, he said.

Being the custodian of part of the beautiful Pacific Ocean is a privilege and a responsibility, Tapugao Falefou, Secretary to the Government of Tuvalu, observed, as he noted the impact of climate change on his country’s exclusive economic zone and fish stocks. “It would be incredibly unjust if a problem, to which we have contributed so little, causes us to lose our most valuable national assets,” he said, sharing with delegates the concepts of kaitasi — shared ownership — and fale-pili — being good neighbours.

Tanya Plibersek, Minister for the Environment and Water of Australia, paid tribute to the 65,000 years of environmental conservation wisdom offered by her country’s indigenous people, as she expressed the wish to see a plastics-free Pacific in her lifetime. Her Government has committed almost $1.2 billion to restoring the Great Barrier Reef, she said. Addressing listeners from the Pacific, she promised them: “Australia is listening closely to what you are saying — and we are ready to act”

Also speaking were Heads of State and Government, ministers and representatives of Greece, Gabon, Israel, Comoros, Cuba, Monaco, Pakistan (speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Georgia, Italy, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Ecuador, Nepal, Iraq, Spain, Estonia, Jamaica, Philippines, Senegal, Iran, Canada, Latvia, Federated States of Micronesia, Egypt, Ukraine, Malta, Tunisia, Gambia, Slovenia, Poland, Bolivia, Mauritius, El Salvador and South Africa, as well as representatives of the European Commission and the Holy See.

A representative of the Development Bank of Latin America also spoke today.

The representative of the United Kingdom spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Ocean Conference will reconvene in plenary at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 30 June, to continue its general debate.

General Debate

GEORGIOS AMYRAS, Deputy Minister for Environment and Energy of Greece, noting environmental pressures in the Mediterranean — such as climate change and increasing activity in the tourism, shipping and fishing sectors — detailed national measures to face these challenges. Among other initiatives, the Government has proposed the establishment of a European research centre aimed at decarbonizing the maritime transport sector. Further, a national maritime strategy seeks to protect 30 per cent of Greek seas and reduce overfishing. Work is also under way to grant protected status to 1,000 unspoiled beaches, address invasive species, fight maritime pollution and reduce the disposal of microplastics by 30 per cent by 2030. Additionally, in line with the European Union’s waste policy, Greece will reduce consumption of the most environmentally damaging single-use plastic products by 30 per cent by 2024 and 60 per cent by 2026. He added that a national strategy for sustainable tourism will address this sector’s environmental footprint.

LEE JAMES TAYLOR WHITE, Minister for Environment, Forest and Oceans of Gabon, stressing that the country is among the most carbon-positive nations in the world because of its rich forest cover, said its seagrass forests attract turtles from Brazil while 15 per cent of the world’s humpback whales come to its waters to breathe. Calling for urgent action to maintain the integrity of Earth, he highlighted the important role of underwater carbon. “We need to stop treating our oceans as a dustbin,” he said, adding that healthy seas exploited sustainably can sustain humanity. Calling on the international community to agree on 30 per cent protected areas before 2030, he underscored the importance of eliminating illegal fishing and reining back climate change. Acknowledging the loss and damage that is impacting large ocean nations, small island developing States and coastal States, he called for international solidarity.

RANI AMIR, Director of Marine Environment Protection Division, Ministry of Environmental Protection of Israel, describing Government action to conserve the country’s vast marine environment, said two weeks ago the Minister for Environmental Protection began the process of declaring the “Palmachim Disturbance” sea area — home to endangered deep-sea shark species, vast nursery grounds of cnidarian assemblages considered highly susceptible, sea pens, cold-water corals and black corals — as a marine protected area. The move will double the protected area under Israel’s jurisdiction. Through the Clean Coast Programme to reduce marine litter, routine, results-oriented, clean-up activities, financed by the Ministry, are measured regularly and rated by an index. Last year’s results showed an unprecedented mark of 74 per cent clean coasts. The plastic bags law and the packaging law prevented pollution at the source and helped reduce polluting plastic bags by 65 per cent. Last week, Parliament approved the Regulations of Air Pollution Prevention from Ships, which will enable Israel to fully apply Annex 6 of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.

HOUMADI MSAIDIE, Minister for Environment of Comoros, aligning himself with the Group of African States, stressed that his country – like many other small island developing States – is “in mortal danger” due to rising sea levels and other disturbances caused by climate change for which it bears no responsibility. Reiterating his country’s readiness to invest and innovate so that the sea might become a place of development and sustainable growth, he expressed hope that commitments regarding ocean conservation are followed by tangible actions that unite the international community around this essential cause. The situation of small island developing States is precarious – in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the global slide into poverty, climate migration, coastal communities’ reduced ability to earn decent income, declining fish stocks and an exponential rise in ocean plastic pollution are “a matter of daily bread” for such States. Against that backdrop, he urged that public and private funds be mobilized to sustainably guide the world towards meeting Sustainable Development Goal 14 (life below water).

JOSÉ FIDEL SANTANA NÚÑEZ, Vice Minister of Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba, expressing his country’s commitment to the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, welcomed sustainable development models that are based on science, technology and ethics. Noting the need for financial resources and technology transfer, he added that this is crucial to harness the potential of the ocean as a source of clean energy and develop circular economies. Protection of the environment must be in line with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, he stressed, noting that many poor countries depend on ocean tourism. Cuba’s new constitution of 2019 guarantees citizens’ rights to live in a clean environment, he pointed out, citing environmental goals, including to recycle 15 per cent of its water, reduce use of plastics, promote renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions. Condemning the selfish economic blockade that has rendered his country vulnerable, he cited former leader Fidel Castro in stressing that “it is not possible to wait because it might be too late”.

PRINCE ALBERT II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco, underscoring the importance of protecting a large part of the high seas, said his country is a member of the High Ambition Coalition, which aims to bring 30 per cent of marine spaces under protected area status by the end of the decade. “Inaction is no longer an option,” he said. Monaco is committed to numerous initiatives, most often in partnership with local actors, scientific institutions and the private sector. In that context, he pointed to The MedFund, which Monaco and the Prince Albert II Foundation launched in 2015 with France and Tunisia, and which finances the management, development and networking of marine protected areas in the Mediterranean. The ambition is to allocate, from 2025, €2.7 million for 20 marine protected areas, representing 7,000 square kilometres. The BeMed initiative — also called Beyond Plastic Med — launched in 2015 supports projects that fight plastic pollution in the Mediterranean.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noting that multiple components of the Sustainable Development Goals directly depend on the health of the oceans, expressed hope that urgent action is taken to achieve all targets of Goal 14 as soon as possible. For such efforts to be successful, measures to conserve and sustainably use the oceans must keep in mind the integrated, indivisible nature of the Goals and be consistent with the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, particularly that of common but differentiated responsibility. Further, due to their historic contribution to ocean degradation, developed countries must take the lead in addressing ocean challenges. The threats to the oceans have been identified — what is needed now is the financing, technology and capacity-building required to implement solutions. He went on to call on developed countries to fulfil their commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement on climate change, including taking accelerated mitigation and adaptation action and urgently fulfilling the long-overdue commitment to provide $100 billion annually in climate financing. He also expressed hope that all commitments adopted at this Conference will be immediately implemented by all parties.

Speaking in his national capacity, he detailed Pakistan’s efforts to keep almost all its coastline pollution-free, plant 7.5 million mangroves in coastal areas and establish a marine pollution control board. Several years ago, Pakistan declared an area of 400 square kilometres as a marine protected area; soon, the Government will declare the Indus River Canyon — an area of 27,000 square kilometres — as another marine protected area. The Government has also banned illegal fishing practices, and he emphasized that these efforts must be complemented by international cooperation — particularly by one of Pakistan’s neighbours — to completely ban illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. He added that his country is implementing green shipbreaking measures to facilitate sustainable practices in this industry.

NINO SHEKRILADZE, Head of the United Nations Division, Department of International Organizations, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, noting the negative impact of temperature and sea-level rise and marine pollution on his coastal country, stressed the pressing need to fully implement Goal 14 as well as the Paris Agreement on climate change. For its part, Georgia submitted an updated nationally determined contributions last year; continues to carry out active and effective measures against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and has various protection regimes for coastal ecosystems. Welcoming the landmark resolution to end plastic pollution, she encouraged all delegates to work together to forge an internationally binding agreement on this matter, adding that her Government is focusing on target 14.4, which relates to sustainable fishing. New standards and requirements have been put in place for vessels flying the Georgian flag in international waters, she said, condemning the Russian Federation’s unjustified military aggression against Ukraine which has affected that country’s ports and resulted in worldwide food insecurity.

OLIVIERO MONTANARO, Director General, Directorate of Natural Heritage and Sea, Ministry of Ecological Transition of Italy, said his country in 2020 joined the Global Ocean Alliance and the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, supporting achievement of the goal to protect 30 per cent of the global ocean by 2030. Italy is firmly convinced of the need to develop a strong international legal framework to address threats to the oceans and seas through the adoption of an international agreement on the conservation of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and the establishment of a global legally binding agreement to combat plastic pollution by 2024. Italy has launched strategic initiatives to restore and protect the seabed and marine habitats. He cited an ambitious €400 million project to consolidate and expand the national system of protected areas by strengthening the observation of marine and costal ecosystems, including through the wide mapping of these areas.

MILCIADES CONCEPCIÓN, Minister for Environment of Panama, noted that the Panama Canal unites the Atlantic and Pacific, which helps connect global activities. Recalling his country’s maritime history, he said that it understands that humanity is responsible for protecting the ocean. Panama was the first country to protect 30 per cent of its maritime surface area — doing so in June 2021 — and also protects 33 per cent of its land surface area. Further, it is one of the three carbon-negative countries in the world and, in the last two years, has increased its forest coverage by 3 per cent, now having 68 per cent coverage nationally. He went on to say that achieving Goal 14 requires unsustainable practices to be changed, along with the implementation of programmes to recover important ecosystems such as mangroves and coral reefs. Detailing national efforts, he said that the Government is working to make the operation of the Panama Canal carbon-neutral by 2030, has recognized nature as a legal subject to facilitate its defence and has committed to protect at least 40 per cent of its marine surface area by 2030.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, Minister for the Environment and Water of Australia, highlighting the 65,000 years of successful environmental conservation knowledge that indigenous people in her country can offer the world, said the impact of climate change is already visible in shifting coastlines, fragile marine ecosystems and heritage sites, like the Great Barrier Reef. One of the Government’s first acts will be to legislate a more ambitious 2030 emissions reduction target, she said, noting that it has committed almost $1.2 billion to preserving and restoring the Great Barrier Reef over the next decade, including by funding research on coral restoration and reef cooling. “To everyone from the Pacific here today: Australia is listening closely to what you are saying — and we are ready to act,” she said, adding that she wants to see a plastics-free Pacific in her lifetime. Australia is managing plastic pollution at home, with export bans and investments in recycling infrastructure, but also partnering with Pacific nations to find alternatives to single-use plastics, she said.

SONG SANG-KEUN, Vice Minister for Oceans and Fisheries of the Republic of Korea, said last year his country established the Carbon Neutrality Road Map for Oceans and Fisheries 2050, announcing its goal of becoming carbon negative, pushing beyond carbon neutrality. A step towards this direction is scaling up investments. In addition to the development of ocean-based renewable energy sources such as tides, waves and currents, Republic of Korea plans to produce green hydrogen. While working on advancement of low-carbon technologies for ships, it will spare no funds for zero-carbon shipping fuelled by green energy sources such as hydrogen and ammonia. The Government will strengthen its leadership in preventing marine pollution both at home and abroad. It laid out an ambitious target of zero marine plastic by 2050, which will be acted upon through monitoring and management throughout the full lifecycle of marine plastic wastes. The seventh International Marine Debris Conference to take place in his country in September will serve as a tailwind for global efforts to eliminate marine debris.

MERVIN ENRIQUE MALDONADO URDANETA, Sectoral Vice-President for Social and Territorial Socialism of Venezuela, aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, emphasized that the seas and oceans are crucial to his country’s social, economic and environmental development. Therefore, State policy prioritizes conservation of marine resources and the national development plan aims to conserve, protect and manage hydrological resources. Further, national legislation prohibits unlawful fishing and seeks to manage fish stocks through measures to control activities in this sector. He went on to say that, in addition to the challenges faced by all States in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Venezuelan people are also affected by the illegal unilateral coercive measures that have imposed a trade, economic and financial blockade on their country. Such measures are a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, and he called for their immediate lifting.

MAISA ROJAS, Minister for the Environment of Chile, stressed that the international community must not lose sight of the great challenges facing the ocean, from pollution to acidification, which have multi-generational impact. The ocean is a source of energy and a vital means of transport; further, it contains genetic resources that are key to fighting various diseases. Chile, alongside Kenya and Portugal, is one of 16 countries that make up the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which is at “the vanguard of global ocean thinking,” she said. Highlighting Chile’s policy of conservation and stressing the need to protect marine corridors that are essential to migratory routes, she noted that 43 per cent of its jurisdictional waters have been declared as marine protected areas. The negotiation of an instrument on biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction will have a wide-reaching impact on other ocean goals as well, she said, adding that her country will follow a “turquoise foreign policy” that combines the green agenda with a blue agenda.

MOHAMMED ALI QURBAN, Chief Executive Officer of the National Center for Wildlife of Saudi Arabia, expressed support for the global effort to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, noting that his country’s goals and vision are in step with international initiatives. Saudi Arabia attaches great importance to the environmental agenda, including biodiversity. The Government has restructured the environmental sector and established the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment in charge of managing waste and addressing desertification. It also launched legislation and other measures, such as the Green Saudi Arabia and Green Middle East initiatives, aimed at increasing protected areas and planting millions of trees, and in 2020, the Government created a research programme to conserve corals. It also developed a guideline for sustainable tourism, he added.

ABDULLAH BIN ALI AL AMRI, Chairman of the Environmental Authority of Oman, expressed concern over the extremes witnessed in nature, emphasizing that fires, snowmelts, hurricanes and increasing ocean temperatures represent nature’s reflexive restoration of its stability. For its part, Oman bases its development on the sustainability of the environment and natural resources, as outlined in national legislation to protect nature, the country’s “Vision 2040” and its joining of several agreements aimed at protecting seas and fishing resources. Further, the Government has created 12 marine protected areas — and just yesterday, on 28 June, it created the thirteenth. It has developed aquaculture projects for coral reefs, planted mangroves, fights to prevent hydrocarbon pollution, banned single-use plastic bags and carries out regular studies to ensure the security of fishing resources. Noting that recent studies show that the situation is stable in the seas around Oman in terms of temperature, acidity and levels of oxygen, chlorophyll, heavy metals and plastics, he pointed out that these positive indicators are also demonstrated by the number of turtles, humpback whales and dolphins in territorial waters, along with naturally increasing fish stocks.

RAKOTOSOA RADO AIMÉ, Director General of Blue Economy of Madagascar, said that as the fourth largest island in the world, with thousands of kilometres of coastline, his country is determined to invest in the blue economy. Calling for science-based solutions to preserve the oceans for future generations, he said Madagascar is committed to modernizing ocean governance by adopting innovations in fishing and aquaculture and developing marine spatial planning through a participatory approach. This is vital to ensure that marine resources are secure, he said, highlighting the Government’s focus on developing a robust ocean policy, including by assessing stocks of key species and ensuring sustainability in aquaculture. Stressing the importance of assisting small fisher-folk, he said Madagascar will modernize fishing villages to make them resilient to climate change and improve the subsistence capacities of fishing communities.

TAPUGAO FALEFOU, Secretary to the Government of Tuvalu, said being the custodians of such a large area of the beautiful Pacific Ocean is both a privilege and a great responsibility. Citing his country’s concepts of kaitasi — shared ownership — and fale-pili — being good neighbours and adopting the responsibility to share and care, he said all countries should share in good stewardship of the ocean. Climate change is already threatening the baselines of Tuvalu’s exclusive economic zone and causing an eastward movement of the most important fish stocks. “It would be incredibly unjust if a problem, to which we have contributed so little, causes us to lose our most valuable national assets,” he said, appealing to the international community to support the position of Tuvalu and the Pacific Islands Forum that the boundaries of their exclusive economic zones should not be affected or changed by sea-level rise, and that their rights to the tuna stocks in these spaces should be preserved.

EYYÜP KAHRAMAN, General Director of Environment Management of the Ministry for Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change of Türkiye, detailed a youth project that studied the origin of a “garbage vortex” in the Gulf of Iskenderun. The project found that the main reason for this vortex was waste that had entered the sea from beaches and, while cleaning it, discovered packaging waste originating from Romania, France, Italy and the Czech Republic. This project demonstrates that garbage entering water resources at one end of the world threatens life on the other. For its part towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 (life below water), Türkiye has made considerable investments that will set an example for the region in reducing marine pollution and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems. The Government is working to clean the country’s coasts and has also protected 1.5 million hectares of marine area to ensure the sustainability of marine and coastal biodiversity. He went on to detail national efforts to monitor the physiochemical characteristics of sea and coastal waters, pollution, sea grass, sea-bottom biodiversity and fisheries via a monitoring network comprised of 423 stations.

LUIS VAYAS, Deputy Minister of Human Mobility of Ecuador, noting the ocean’s role in absorbing carbon dioxide and heat, while also ensuring food security, said the global ocean crisis is another facet of the triple planetary crisis. Ecuador recognizes the rights of its citizens to live in a healthy environment, he noted, highlighting the creation of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, which is one of the 10 biggest reserves in the world, as well as a “living laboratory on the evolution of species.” Pointing to the political impetus at the twenty-sixth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), he said that Ecuador has participated in various multilateral initiatives, including agreements to protect the eastern tropical marine corridor, as well as the negotiation process for a treaty on the conservation of marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction.

SEWA LAMSAL, Joint Secretary, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, noting that although her country is mountainous and landlocked, it is linked through hydrography and the hydrological cycle to the oceans, which are its lifeline for international trade, marine resources and economic development. Rapid melting of the Himalayan glaciers and glacial lake outburst caused by global warming and a resultant increase in water volumes has led to floods and landslides and ultimately to the sea-level rise affecting millions of lives in the region and beyond. As such, an integrated approach to effectively implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is needed. Underscoring the need for capacity development, transfer of marine technology, and free access and equitable sharing of benefits acquired from the marine resources among Member States, especially the small island developing States, least developed countries and landlocked developing countries, she urged developed countries to take the lead in addressing the current challenges for implementing Goal 14. “Finally, we must not forget that there is an organic link between melting of glaciers in the mountains and sea-level rise in the ocean,” she said, calling for lasting solutions to ensure healthy, productive, sustainable and resilient blue oceans while preserving the sanctity of white mountains.

ZACHARIE SOHOU, Director of the Institute of Fisheries and Oceanographic Research of Benin, aligning himself with the Group of African States, emphasized his country’s commitment to global initiatives to conserve the oceans and pointed out that this Conference provides an opportunity for Benin to detail its efforts to conserve marine and coastal ecosystems. Multiple ministries are involved in ocean management, and scientific research has facilitated various sectors’ ability to implement actions to manage fish stocks and coastal erosion, improve the coastline and create protected marine areas. Noting that the blue economy lies at the heart of socioeconomic life in Benin and forms an integral part of the Government’s 2026 vision, he outlined national legislation that prohibits the production, export, trade, possession, distribution and use of non-biodegradable plastic bags. He added that the Government is also focused on developing marine ecotourism and on combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing to protect both marine resources and food security.

TALIB AL-SAAD, Deputy Minister of Transportation of Iraq, drew attention to the challenge posed to the health of oceans by plastic waste. Expressing concern that marine organisms are being choked by plastic, he said the weight of plastic will be larger than that of fish by 2050. Expressing support for the United Nations resolution “End Plastic Pollution: Towards a legally binding instrument” adopted in March 2022, he noted that this text calls for the establishment of a legally binding treaty to tackle plastic pollution and addresses the need to transfer adequate technology towards this end. Noting that Iraq is implementing several environment agreements it is party to, he said that safe shipping is essential for protecting the marine environment and underscored the need to achieve all 17 Goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

LUIS PLANAS PUCHADES, Minister for Agriculture, Fishery, Food and Environmental Affairs of Spain, stressed the strategic nature of the ocean in relation to implementation of the 2030 Agenda. His country, with its lengthy coastlines and vast seas, has always viewed the ocean as crucial to livelihood. Spain attaches great importance to sustainable fishing, he said, calling for solutions towards that end. Expressing concern about illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and overfishing, he stressed the need for scientific knowledge to use marine resources sustainably. Decision-making must be based on the best available scientific knowledge and this must be reflected in the Conference outcome document, he said. Spain’s Marine Reserve Network is an example of its commitment to saving the ocean. “This is a key moment for international ocean governance,” he said, urging the international community to also ensure the balance among the three pillars — economic, social and environmental — of the 2030 Agenda.

ANTTI TOOMING, Deputy Secretary-General at the Ministry for the Environment of Estonia, said the sea forms an essential part of the national identity of his small, maritime country located on the Baltic Sea. Aware of its responsibility to safeguard marine environments, the Government has protected about 30 per cent of its national coastal and marine areas and plans to establish marine protected areas in Estonia’s exclusive economic zone. He encouraged other States to follow this example and designate protected areas, as this is one of the easiest measures with which to safeguard marine species and habitats. Estonia also conducts considerable marine research to ensure that its policies are based on the best available data, and is proud to contribute to ocean observation, monitoring and technological development in this area. He went on to urge that more emphasis be placed on addressing pollution caused by industrial hazardous substances and pharmaceutical residue, as well as on removing debris already present in the oceans and seas. Estonia can set an example on how to do things “right, fast and effective” so that others can learn from this experience, he added.

MATTHEW SAMUDA, Minister without Portfolio, Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation of Jamaica, stressing that the ocean is critical to the development and well-being of his people because of its role in tourism, shipping and logistical services, expressed concern about beach erosion on the country’s southern and eastern coasts. The global target of restricting temperature rise to 1.5°C is not just a frivolous slogan for Jamaica; it has submitted its commitments and will be pursuing climate change legislation, he said. At the last Ocean Conference, the country committed to increase marine protected areas by 2 per cent, bringing the total protected area to 13 per cent. A member of the High Ambition Coalition, Jamaica will surpass the 30 per cent target by 2030, he said, also noting that it has banned the import, manufacture and use of plastic bags of Styrofoam and drinking straws. Highlighting attempts to leverage green investments in the marine space, he also pointed to an ambitious plan for marine and coastal ecosystem restoration.

SARANYA HASANTHI URUGODAWATTE DISSANAYAKE, Acting Additional Secretary for Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, said that her country is a pioneer in Asia for developing a national framework for submarine cable protection and resilience. It leads the Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihood Action Group under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, connecting member countries across continents sharing expertise, best practices, and extensive capacity-building opportunities. Having endorsed the Global Ocean Alliance’s “30by30” target, Sri Lanka has begun the process of formulating marine spatial planning encompassing marine conservation, exploration and sustainable use of marine resources, fisheries, tourism, shipping, offshore renewable energy, and national security in a holistic manner. Her country intends to create a protected area of 32,550 square kilometres equal to 6.3 per cent of Sri Lanka’s exclusive economic zone. Considering the rapid depletion of fish stocks in the oceans, major fishing nations must ensure that juvenile fish complete their life cycle, which, in the long run, supports sustainable livelihoods and equitable sharing of fisheries resources.

CHARLINA VITCHEVA, Director-General of the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission, recalled that the first Ocean Conference alerted the world to the problems threatening the ocean and urged that this Conference should focus on action. The current alarming status of the ocean represents a collective failure, and there is a collective duty to resolve this situation. Noting that humanity continues to put more pressure on the ocean, she called on States and stakeholders to accelerate efforts to implement Goal 14 and expressed hope that commitments made in Lisbon will not be forgotten once delegations go home. Solutions do exist, she stressed, but they require major structural transformations and investment, along with political determination and changed attitudes. For its part, the European Union is implementing policies to promote the circular economy, limit single-use plastics, protect biodiversity and cut 55 per cent of emissions by 2030. She added that the bloc has a zero-tolerance policy regarding illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

CELIA ANNA M. FERIA (Philippines), aligning herself with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, reiterated commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, describing it as “the constitution of the ocean”. As an archipelagic and maritime State, her country’s destiny is tied to that of the ocean. Highlighting the benefits of carbon storage and oxygen generation among others, she voiced concern about the global problem of marine litter. Drawing attention to a national plan of action for reducing and managing marine litter, which aims to achieve zero waste in Philippine waters by 2040, she also highlighted the Philippines’ ecosystem-based approach in fisheries management. Stressing the importance of combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, she said the country has implemented vessel monitoring and has incentivized responsible community engagement by recognizing 340 coastal municipalities as outstanding.

FATOUMATA BINETOU RASSOUL CORREA (Senegal) outlined measures undertaken by her country to save the ocean. With its 700 kilometres of coastline, of which 95 per cent are made up of mudflats, mangroves and sands, Senegal has sought to preserve its fragile ecosystems by creating 12 marine protected areas covering more than 210,000 hectares that are home to over 2,000 listed species. Senegal is restoring deteriorating ecosystems by using artificial reefs and planting mangroves. It also restored the 7 kilometre-long, 50 meter-wide beaches of Saly. This greatly helped to revitalize the tourism sector and socioeconomic activities. Following enactment of the law banning plastic bags, Senegal is working on a new law for the protection of the country’s coastline. Despite these efforts, major challenges remain. The breach of the Langue de Barbarie, in Saint-Louis, and the contamination of the Bay of Hann, the second-largest bay in the world, are emergency issues for her country.

TEBURORO TITO (Kiribati), aligning himself with the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said that the traditional, nature-friendly and communal way of life practiced prior to the advent of industrialization and globalization — of never taking more than what was needed — has been replaced with an individualistic view of life and the cash-based economy. This has resulted in the unrestrained exploitation of the seas and oceans to satisfy the desire of a few that wish to become wealthy and powerful in as short a time as possible. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing — especially by multinational corporations — is one of the greatest threats to the health and wealth of the ocean and amounts to “sea terrorism”, he stressed, calling for collective efforts to eliminate this problem. He went on to note that, 10 years ago, Kiribati created a large marine sanctuary — the Phoenix Islands Protected Area — as a firm testament of its commitment to strengthening the oceans. This bold move was designed to contribute to restocking Pacific marine wildlife and biodiversity for the benefit of the entire world, he added.

MORTEZA DAMANPAK JAMI (Iran), stressing the importance of science-based solutions and technology transfer, said that lack of capacity in developing States has hindered the international community from addressing environmental challenges. Pointing to the negative impact of over-exploitation of fish stocks, extensive maritime emissions including by military fleets and discharge of untreated waste, he said that States with a higher role in creating this situation should accept more responsibility. Calling for a regional mechanism that focuses on protecting the ecosystem and biodiversity of the Persian Gulf region, he noted his country’s participation in the negotiations of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. However, such constructive and active engagement should not be construed as a change in Iran’s legal position concerning the Convention, he stressed.

KATHY GRAHAM, Director General of Marine Planning and Conservation of Canada, said her country is leveraging public-private partnerships and technologies to protect and restore the oceans, working with all partners, including indigenous communities, provinces and partners, industry stakeholders and environmental groups to ensure all Canadians have a role in safeguarding the country’s ocean heritage. This approach enables development of a low-carbon ocean economy, buoyed by strong political will, a knowledge-based workforce and significant investments in that regard. It recently extended its Oceans Protection Plan, committing an additional $2 billion to the $1.5 billion invested since 2017 to make the oceans cleaner. This amount includes $85 million to support aquatic ecosystem restoration in coastal and upstream inland communities. An additional $750 million has been set aside to support Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters, including the Ocean Supercluster, which helps ocean-based industries. The country is making progress toward protecting 25 per cent of oceans by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030. Her Government is leading the charge in addressing plastic pollution. It has introduced a ban on harmful single-use plastics, which will take effect this year. She then announced 20 new voluntary commitments, including $1.7 million to help developing countries combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

CONRAD BRUCH (Luxembourg) supported an ambitious international legally binding agreement to address plastic pollution. Noting that millions of people depend on small-scale fishing for survival, he pointed out that degradation of marine ecosystems and overfishing are preventing development in those communities. He went on to say that aquaculture is the fastest-growing food-production sector, but emphasized that investment therein is often harmful to ecosystems and coastal communities. Investment in the blue economy must be sustainable, and Luxembourg provides technical and financial assistance to entrepreneurs who wish to invest in the blue economy. Further, it supports a moratorium on seabed extraction — which has a considerable negative impact on ecosystems — and has committed for decades to the protection of cetaceans and a moratorium on whale hunting and has funded a project to protect marine turtles along the Senegalese coast. He added that even a small country that is relatively far from the sea is concerned about protecting the oceans, which are vital for humanity’s future.

ANDREJS PILDEGOVICS (Latvia), stressing the need for global action to address marine plastic pollution, highlighted the importance of regional cooperation, as demonstrated by the Helsinki Commission, an essential player for the conservation of the marine environment of the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea Action Plan is a science-based strategic plan which contains measures to prevent land-based and sea-based marine pollution by addressing marine litter, the spread of alien species, and the impacts of climate change. As a coastal State of the Baltic Sea, Latvia has pioneered mapping and assessment of ecosystems and has developed a national Maritime Spatial Plan. Recent results of a national cost-benefit study also show that the estimated benefits of creating new marine protected areas far outweigh the potential losses from negative impacts on economic activity. Highlighting the role of the scientific community in Latvia, particularly women scientists, he stressed the link between peace and sustainable development, condemning the Russian Federation’s unjustified military aggression against Ukraine.

JEEM LIPPWE (Federated States of Micronesia) said his delegation looks forward to the commitments collectively put on the table at the Conference as well as to the adoption of the Declaration, which touches on several important subjects. Shipwrecks sunk during the Second World War have begun to leak fuel in his country’s waters and still hold unexploded ordnance. It is appropriate that the Declaration asks the international community to collectively prevent, reduce and control marine pollution from shipwrecks, he said, stressing that the Federated States of Micronesia cannot achieve this important goal without help from partners. His delegation supports the focus the Declaration puts on the importance of traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities. In his country and the broader Pacific region, as well as in many other coastal States and communities around the world, both the best available scientific information and the relevant traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities are used to inform ways to balance ocean conservation and the sustainable use of its resources.

YASMINE FOUAD, Minister for Environment of Egypt, pointed out that her country is facing immense challenges related to water despite its location on the Red and Mediterranean Seas. In response, the Government is undertaking measures relating to water usage and purification, creating desalinization stations and developing national maritime reserves. Noting that only 3 per cent of the world’s oceans have not been subjected to man-made stress, she said that the upcoming conference on climate change in Sharm El-Sheikh will aim to be far-reaching and ambitious. Given the importance of the current Ocean Conference, Egypt will dedicate a day to water issues, one to agriculture and food and one will focus on nature, biodiversity and local communities. She expressed hope that the conclusions from Sharm El-Sheikh will be based on those from Lisbon and will help to tackle current environmental challenges. She added that assembling the funding, capacity-building and technology transfer required to address the same will only be possible if the international community works together transparently.

GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, noting that ocean health is not just a question of the 2030 Agenda but fundamental to life on the planet, called for a more integrated approach with human beings at the heart. Restoring marine ecosystems is essential to the human role of responsible stewardship of the environment, he said, cautioning that if left unchecked, this century might witness unprecedented destruction of marine resources. Nature cannot be considered as separate from humans, he stressed, adding “we are part of nature”. Turning to the plight of small island developing States, he noted that they have suffered unjustly from the negative impact of climate change, depletion of fishing stocks, pollution and rising sea levels. While there are several international ocean agreements, the fragmentation and the absence of regulatory mechanisms hamper implementation, he observed, also calling for collaboration with indigenous communities and faith-based organizations who are already at the vanguard of environmental protection.

INNA OHNIVETS (Ukraine) issued an urgent call to protect humanity and nature, stressing that Russian warships are using once peaceful maritime zones to launch hundreds of missiles against her country, sowing death and terror. “Russian invaders are destroying our natural heritage,” she said, stressing that Russian armed forces are using more than half of Ramsar Sites in Ukraine — wetlands of international importance — against the Ukrainian people, including the coasts of the Azov and Black Seas and the lower reaches of the Danube and Dnieper rivers, demonstrating blatant disrespect for the environment. More than 20 nature and biosphere reserves and national parks have suffered tremendously due to the aggression. The Russian Federation continues to use sea mines in the Black Sea as a way to hide its illegal activities, contrary to maritime and humanitarian law. The Russian naval mines are carried by the current to the shores of Odessa and Kherson, causing deaths and damage to marine life. Fragments of Russian missiles caused by explosions have been repeatedly recorded on the territory of the national park. Marine pollution has increased due to the regular shelling of ports, notably in Mariupol and at the Azovstal metallurgical plant, with tens of thousands of tons of hydrogen sulphide solution having spilled into the Sea of Azov after the mass bombardment. This chemical leak could cause the complete extinction of flora and fauna of the Sea of Azov. Other dangerous substances could also spill into the Mediterranean Sea, she said, insisting on accountability for Moscow’s illegal activities in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, war crimes and marine environment pollution.

VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) said that her country — a small island State whose history is intertwined with the sea — is committed to a healthy, safe and resilient ocean. The responsibility to safeguard the oceans is clear, and the benefits flowing from oceans must be shared equitably and inclusively. An equitable ocean economy is a sustainable one, particularly for those who depend on maritime resources for their livelihoods. This Conference presents an opportunity to deliver on promises to protect the oceans, and she urged those present to consider how the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and marine resources can be reflected in national law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Noting that the main challenges to implementing the Convention relate mainly to a lack of capacity, she urged greater coherence and consistency across different sectors and regions. She said that, for example, coastal States should enhance national legislation in line with the Convention, particularly its provisions relating to exclusive economic zones.

The representative of Tunisia called for urgent efforts to stop the deterioration of the maritime environment and rehabilitate ecosystems, the natural capital for future generations. This Conference is being held at a critical time amid accelerated marine biodiversity loss. He called for identifying priority programmes, mobilizing resources and supporting the capacity of developing countries during the United Nations Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development. Due to its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia has always engaged in international processes for sustainable development. It adopted the right to a clean environment as a constitutional right. Action plans and strategies have been put in place on climate change, the transition to the blue and green economies, and on the restoration of biodiversity. It is now drafting two strategies, one on the blue economy and the other on plastic-free coasts. Tunisia has put legal and institutional frameworks in place, in line with its global obligations.

LANG YABOU (Gambia), aligning himself with the Group of African States and the Group of 77 and China, said that the fisheries and water resources sector comprises approximately 12 per cent of his country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Coastal commercial and artisanal fisheries, offshore locally based fisheries and aquaculture are key contributors to national economic growth and, therefore, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in and near Gambia’s exclusive economic zone must be addressed as part of efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14. Noting that fisheries and water resources are also threatened by increased marine pollution and global warming, he detailed Government efforts to respond to these challenges, including measures to improve waste-management services aimed at promoting safe, equitable and sustainable use of water resources, improving sanitation and addressing the impacts of climate change. He added that the Government has also adopted a national fisheries policy that includes a ban on single-use plastics and monofilament fishing nets.

BLAŽKA KEPIC (Slovenia), expressing strong support for United Nations efforts to accelerate implementation of Goal 14, said her country also is committed to protect and conserve at least 30 per cent of the world’s land and marine areas by 2030, including through regional strategies. She supported Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) countries as part of shared efforts to reduce emissions, phase out of fossil fuel subsidies, scale up adaptation and mitigation funding, and create a firm mechanism for loss and damage. “We are aware that establishing liability and compensation for climate loss and damage has been a long-standing goal for vulnerable countries in the Least Developed Countries Group,” she said, noting Slovenia’s contribution to the Global Environmental Facility’s fund to aid those countries. Her Government fully supports the instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. She said Slovenia is a candidate to serve in the Security Council for the 2024-2025 term, and intends to bring impartial perspectives, including on climate change, water, food security.

KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) said that his country contributes to regional solutions to fight maritime pollution and challenges relating to climate change in the Baltic Sea. Welcoming this Conference’s focus on the science-policy interface, he detailed Poland’s contributions to oceanographic science through numerous research projects, the Baltic Sea Action Plan and Government efforts to address military contaminants dating from the Second World War in the Baltic Sea. He went on to say that seas and oceans can play a key role in the global energy transition, noting that the Government plans to develop offshore wind farms in the Baltic Sea. Turning to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, he stressed that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline — “on top of exporting Russian geopolitical influence to Europe” — has caused environmental damage to the Baltic Sea, disturbing the seabed and marine habitats. Stopping this project is morally, politically and environmentally correct under current circumstances, he added.

The representative of Bolivia said his country has been landlocked since 1879. “The oceans belong to humanity,” he said, noting that Bolivia has been a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea since 1984. The treaty is one of the greatest international achievements, as it balances the rights and obligations of States in the use of the oceans. The international community, however, has yet to achieve fair distribution of marine resources. Landlocked countries are being prevented from integrating into the global market, he said, calling for the correction of imbalances by strengthening preferential treatment for them, as they face a significant geographic disadvantage in using marine resources. Along with least developed nations, they need capacity-building support. Pointing to the unbridled consumerism promoted by the capitalist system, he warned that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

JAGDISH DHARAMCHAND KOONJUL (Mauritius), noting that plastic pollution — an entirely manmade phenomenon — threatens life below water and on land, called on States to honour their commitments made in the Paris Agreement. For its part, Mauritius has banned the use of plastic bags since 2020 and, today, only biodegradable material can be used to make bags. Further, the Government continues to implement projects to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change on the ocean, including those designed to restore damaged maritime ecosystems and prevent further degradation. Mauritius has planted 400,000 mangroves over some 20 hectares of coastal area, rehabilitated beaches suffering from coastal erosion, established long-term coral reef monitoring programmes and cleaned up the marine environment following the devastating Wakashio incident. He added that the Government has established 18 marine protected areas and plans to create a new one in the Chagos Archipelago — which the International Court of Justice recognizes as part of Mauritius — that will enable the country to protect 30 per cent of its marine area by 2030, preserve cultural heritage and allow for decolonization.

The representative of Belgium said that while his State has only 67 kilometres of shoreline, 0.01 per cent of the world’s total coastlines, its shoreline is home to the second largest port in Europe. It is lined with offshore windmills, which have the sixth-largest capacity in the world; is the first place where a sniffer airplane actively enforces low nitrogen and sulphur emissions of ships; and is among the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The shoreline contains the largest protected area of Belgium, he said, noting that over 37 per cent of the North Sea has been designated as a marine protected area. “As the eyes of the world are upon us, let this serve as a reminder that there is nothing we can’t achieve if we set our minds to it,” he said, calling on Member States to work together. “We still have the chance to say to future generations that we did what needed to be done. But that requires us to take bold and decisive action,” he said, stressing the need to accept the target of protecting 30 per cent of the planet by 2030 as proposed by the Convention on Biological Diversity.

EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) said that it is essential to increase efforts to protect, conserve and sustainably manage the oceans, as healthy ocean ecosystems are more productive. Towards this end, the Government has established plans for marine protected areas to manage marine waste and — as part of its commitment to biodiversity — has developed a census for local birds and mapped out sea turtle routes to gather data. She stressed the need to promote the scientific observation of seas both to provide solutions and to ensure that decisions are based on the best scientific and technical information available. In this, she highlighted the challenge of reducing the existing gap between developed and developing countries by implementing policies that will facilitate the exchange of scientific data, best practices and marine technology. Emphasizing the need to develop innovative solutions to protect the oceans through a participatory and inclusive approach, she added that “oceans are more than bodies of water — they are the source of life that connects all beings on this planet”.

The representative of South Africa said her country is where three of the world’s oceans meet, namely the South Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean. It is endowed with a magnificent, world-famous coastline that is home to a plethora of unique species. On preventing and reducing marine pollution by 2025, South Africa’s Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries is leading projects together with partners, communities and the private sector aimed at addressing plastic pollution that enters rivers and eventually oceans at their sources on land. These efforts have reduced pollution, thus helping improve water quality. South Africa has also enacted strong measures to conserve its ocean and coastal biodiversity. Her country is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and currently has 15.5 per cent of its marine and coastal waters under protection.

CHRISTIAN ASINELLI, Corporate Vice-President of Strategic Programming of the Development Bank of Latin America, spotlighting the unequalled biodiversity of Latin America and the Caribbean, said that 2022 will be a breakthrough point for the region to assume the unavoidable challenge of leading on climate matters. “Solutions must necessarily include our region,” he stressed, which will require support from the entire international community in line with the principle of shared responsibility. For its part, the Bank will spend $1.25 billion to directly fund projects relating to the oceans and coastal areas of Latin America and the Caribbean that promote the blue economy. Initiatives in this regard include those to promote sustainable fisheries, nature-based solutions, ecotourism and improved management of marine protected areas. Emphasizing that the Bank wants to become the “green and blue bank” of Latin America and the Caribbean, he said it will spend $25 billion on green funding by 2026 to contribute to climate and environmental goals and that the Bank is here at this Conference to join in building collective responses that will include the necessary voices of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Source: United Nations

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