“Without the preservation of the health of the oceans and their sustainability, there could be no human development.”
On the opening day of the 5th Sustainable Ocean Summit of the World Ocean Council, which is being held from 29 November to 1 December in Halifax, Canada, former President James A Michel delivered a pre-recorded video address to the delegates at the Summit.
In his address, Mr Michel noted that, in many instances, ocean-based activities lacked corporate ocean responsibility, leading to harmful practices and policies. He called for the setting up of a proper international governance structure, under the aegis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, while the World Ocean Council can provide leadership, advocacy and an agenda for the future of the oceans.
He emphasised the role of the private sector in ocean sustainable development, in understanding the problems and implementing the solutions. “Governments cannot do all that is needed alone”, the former President said, adding that “the role of government can usefully be to foster and facilitate the private sector’s long-term role in ocean sustainable development and to create synergies”.
Recognising that the oceans are a single, dynamic global commons, Mr Michel stressed that their full potential could only be harnessed through collaboration and not through confrontation.
“Ocean industries require access and social licence to use ocean space and resources in a sustainable way”, said Mr Michel. “The best efforts by a single company, or an entire industry sector, are not enough to secure ocean health and productivity. It requires cross-sectorial development and the implementation of responsible use and stewardship by all sectors”, he added.
He cited several examples to illustrate how the smarter use of the sea can be reconciled with sustainability. Deploring the fact that the oceans have for too long been used as a dumping ground for waste generated on land, the former President said that the clean-up of the oceans was not only an environmental goal but a huge business opportunity, representing a multi-billion dollar industry that is barely exploited.
The harnessing of ocean energy is another example he cited. Through research and development, he said, oceans could potentially generate more than the entire global electricity needs.
On the subject of the Blue Economy, he said that there had been enough discourse about it and that the time had come for concrete action. “Understanding the potential of the Blue Economy is one thing; making it work is the next step,” Mr Michel said. He highlighted the role played by Small Island Developing States, with Seychelles at the forefront, in advocating this concept.
“We are only too aware of what is already happening: fisheries yielding less with the passing of each year, coupled with the growing threat of climate change. Extreme weather conditions have become more prevalent, while along the beaches the evidence of rising sea levels is all too obvious. Livelihoods are threatened, if not the very survival of our low-lying islands and valuable coastal plains”, he said.
In those circumstances, he argued, it was imperative that sustainable solutions be found urgently, giving several examples of the measures that Seychelles had already implemented or was implementing in this regard.
In concluding his address, former President Michel stressed that businesses could not prosper if sustainable development was not at their core. Likewise, he said, without the preservation of the health of oceans and their sustainability, there could be no human development.
The 5th Sustainable Ocean Summit, organised by the World Ocean Council, led by Mr Paul Holthus, its founding President and CEO, brings together high level representatives from the private sector, industry associations and groups, intergovernmental organizations and governments. It has as its theme “Blue sky thinking for a blue ocean and blue economy: the great ocean challenge”.
Former President James Michel is being represented at the Summit by Mr Jacquelin Dugasse, CEO of the James Michel Foundation.