Urgent action is needed to avoid “irreversible tragedies” in the world’s oceans caused by plastic pollution and climate change, Prince Albert II of Monaco has said at a major conference that heard there are already up to 500 “dead zones”.
The Prince told the gathering of academics, senior officials and ministers in Edinburgh that the threats facing the oceans were “increasingly alarming” and people must stop believing it was possible to pour “anything and everything” into them “without consequences.”
His outspoken warning was echoed by Peter Thomson, the UN’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, who compared the situation to all the historic architecture in Scotland’s capital being wiped out by a massive earthquake.
He said the world’s oceans were in “deep, deep trouble” and studies had identified between 400 and 500 so-called “dead zones” – areas that do not have enough oxygen to support marine life.
This is usually caused by an increase in chemical nutrients, leading to excessive blooms of algae that deplete underwater oxygen levels.
If unchecked, it is estimated that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans will outweigh fish and the equivalent of four trucks of plastic waste will be added to the sea every minute.
Opening address of the 9th Monaco Blue Initiative in #Edinburgh by HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco highlighting how the international community is taking decisive action collaborating together for ocean conservation & to reverse ocean decline @MBIocean @EdinburghUni #MBI2018 pic.twitter.com/pdLrpbeQiQ
— Manaia Productions (@ManaiaProd) April 9, 2018
The conference was held at the University of Edinburgh by the Monaco Blue Initiative, a think tank that aims to bring together experts and decision makers to find practical solutions.
It was set up by the prince’s foundation and the Oceanographic Institute. The latter body is part of the foundation named after his great-great-grandfather, Prince Albert I, who devoted much of his life to oceanography.
Prince Albert II, who is often referred to as ‘the green prince’ for his efforts to tackle climate change and ocean pollution, used his opening address to warn that swift action was required to reconcile “the needs of man with those of nature” in the face of increasing threats.
He said: “Whilst there is still time, we must do everything we can to avoid irreversible tragedies, tragedies that we can see moving on the horizon when we observe the deterioration of precious, fragile ecosystems, the spread of plastic pollution and the daily disappearance of different plant and animal species.”
Calling for a “respectful” approach to the world’s waters, he said: “We must stop taking the ocean for granted in believing that it is permanent and we can take from it and pour into it anything and everything without consequences.”
The prince praised a series of initiatives that have shown a “spirit of collective responsibility”, such as the Paris Agreement, but said this must now be “extended beyond diplomatic and political circles” to business and civil society.
— MonacoBlueInitiative (@MBIocean) April 9, 2018
Mr Thomson, a Fijian diplomat who served as President of the UN General Assembly until last September, told the conference that the death of coral reefs was an “observable tragedy” in his country.
He said: “It would be akin to somebody from Edinburgh, seeing all these beautiful buildings we’re surrounded by just demolished in an earthquake in one day.”
But Mr Thomson argued that technology meant that there could be “massive data collection” from the seas by 2021 to measure temperature and acidification levels.
He said this could involve fitting “sensors and transmitters on the hull of every pleasure craft, every commercial craft, every buoy, every beacon in the world” and an upcoming UN conference will create for the first time “law on the high seas that covers everybody”.
Dominic LeBlanc, the Canadian fisheries minister, told the conference that further talks will be held at June’s G7 summit in Quebec and a ministerial meeting in the autumn that aims to increase ocean observation and cut unauthorised fishing.
Originally published by Simon Johnson at The Telegraph