CITES, UNDP and FAO bring global representatives together at UN headquarters to celebrate World Wildlife Day and “Life below Water”
03 March 2019

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High-level representatives from UN member states and international organizations gathered on 1st of March, 2019 at the United Nations Headquarters to celebrate the UN World Wildlife Day under the theme ‘Life below water: for people and planet.

The benefits of marine and coastal resources are enormous. Over 3 billion people depend on these resources for their livelihoods globally. The market value of marine and coastal resources and related industries is estimated at US$3 trillion per year, about 5% of global GDP. Alarmingly, despite its critical importance, life below water faces many threats, amongst them an area of primary concern for CITES, which is their unsustainable exploitation for international trade. Over 30% of commercially exploited marine fish stocks are overfished.

Jointly organized by the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the event was attended by senior government officials, international organizations dealing with fisheries such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), conservation leaders, the private sector, celebrity advocates and youth representatives.

The UN Secretary-General provided a message for World Wildlife Day 2019.  Permanent Representatives of Sri Lanka and Germany to the United Nations, the UNDP Administrator and the President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society also gave opening remarks on the importance of the day.

The speakers and expert panelists shared with the audience their experiences and views on the crucial contributions of life below water to sustainable development as well as the challenges faced in ensuring its conservation and sustainable use, while highlighting solutions to address them.

World Wildlife Day 2019, which falls on 3 March, focused on marine species and aligns closely with the Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life below water. It was an opportunity to raise awareness about the breathtaking diversity of marine wildlife, the benefitsit brings to our everyday lives as well as ways to ensure that it can continue to do so for generations to come.

CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, said: “This is the first World Wildlife Day that focuses on life below water. We are all striving to achieve the same objective of sustainability: for people and planet – where wildlife, be it terrestrial or marine, can thrive in the wild while also benefiting people. We, here at CITES, will continue to work tirelessly to ensure international trade in CITES-listed marine species is legal, sustainable and traceablefor people, planet and prosperity.”

“5 to 12 million tonnes of plastic now enter the ocean every year, threatening the health of countless species – from the smallest zooplankton to the largest whales.  90% of large predators have already been taken out of the ocean by overfishing, some 30% of fish stocks are overexploited, and over 500 hypoxic areas have become ‘dead zones’ uninhabitable for most species,” said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “To reverse this, a literal ‘sea change’ is required in how we manage both ocean and land-based activities, across sectors ranging from fisheries to agriculture to waste management.”

FAO Assistant-Director General, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Árni M. Mathiesen, said:  “FAO welcomes the decision to focus on marine species at this year’s World Wildlife Day, as it builds on international recognition of the importance of conserving and sustainably using life under water. FAO and CITES continue to work jointly on CITES species listings, supporting countries and ensuring that decisions complement established fisheries management approaches worldwide.”

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