St Julian's, MALTA (6 October 2017) – WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) announced three new commitments to saving the world’s oceans at the Our Ocean conference in Malta.

Our Ocean brings together Heads of State and Ministers, other government officials, scientists, business leaders, and non-governmental organizations to address the challenges facing the ocean today and turn ideas into action by making concrete commitments to conserve the ocean. Since 2014, more than 250 such commitments have been made.

This year, WCS announced these commitments:

  • The Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) announced its commitment to deliver evidence-based, scalable solutions to global ocean challenges at the intersection of nature conservation, sustainable development, and human well-being.  SNAPP working groups have explored science-informed solutions for a variety of ocean-related issues. There are 7 ocean-themed groups, involving 210 individuals, 76 institutions, and 23 countries: Coastal Defenses, Ridges to Reefs, Data Limited Fisheries, Fisheries Measures, Offshore Aquaculture, Coastal Restoration, and Assessing Biocultural Indicators.  The research includes: efforts to value the coastal defenses from storms and sea level rise that are provided by nature and coastal preserves; development of a tool to help manage fisheries when there are limited data about the fisheries; determining how (and where) offshore aquaculture can be an integral component of global food security and sustainability; and how land-use decisions in Pacific islands impact the health of reef habitats and the management of local fisheries. The Partnership has invested EUR 1,1 million (USD 1,3 million) in this initiative and is committed to spend at least an additional EUR 500,735 (USD 598,537.42) on these projects.
  • The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced EUR 836,000 (USD 1 million) annually for the next five years on its NY Seascape initiative to promote conservation of the marine waters surrounding New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and the Mid-Atlantic, and to develop an urban marine conservation ethic for New York City and beyond. In addition, WCS announced it will incorporate an interactive exhibit to educate and engage visitors on the impacts of plastics in the ocean and undertake personal commitments to reduce single use plastic use, as an integral component of the new Ocean Wonders exhibit to open at the NY Aquarium during the summer of 2018.  This will be combined with a digital campaign to promote public policies in New York City to reduce single use plastics. 
  • WCS, along with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Southall Environmental Associates, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), reaffirmed their commitment to develop noise reduction targets for individual noise sources. A Working Group will kick-off in 2018 to conduct a Situation Analysis on ocean noise, generating an inventory of primary sources, key industry actors, and best practices. Commitments will be finalised and submitted to the IUCN World Conservation Congress for endorsement as an IUCN Resolution in September 2020.

The world’s oceans are in trouble. Climate change is warming the seas and altering their composition, resulting in broad impacts from rising seas, acidification, dying coral reefs, and invasive species. Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is decimating fish stocks relied upon for food security for billions of people. Pollution from accumulated plastic waste and resource extraction threatens marine wildlife and people alike.

WCS President and CEO Cristan Samper said: “The hopeful news emanating from Malta this week is that the positive actions add up to progress. The commitments being made this week at Our Ocean represent concrete steps toward a sustainable ocean, healthy marine wildlife populations, and a healthier planet.”

Last year, the WCS joined the Waitt Foundation, the blue moon fund, and the Global Environment Facility in committing $48 million at Our Ocean 2016 to expand the world’s marine protected areas (MPAs). The commitment focuses on marine ecosystems with high value in biodiversity and ecosystem services for coastal economies and people. Since launching last year, it has begun funding MPA initiatives in 19 countries. This work reinforces WCS’s focus on small scale fisheries, MPAs, local communities, and key marine wildlife species that include cetaceans, sharks, and rays.