Healthy Oceans a Priority at Rio+20

Expert panel highlights urgency of building marine resilience to ocean acidification


Erika Rosenthal, Earthjustice, (415) 812-2055


Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098


Mike Crocker, AOSIS, (978) 968-9499

As world leaders gathered at the Rio+20 Earth Summit today, Ambassador Marlene Moses of Nauru, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, along with experts on ocean science and governance highlighted success stories and approaches to building marine ecosystem resilience. Ocean health is a priority issue for this United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Number 6, Sand Key, Great Barrier Reef.
(David Doubilet /

"Coral reefs and a healthy marine environment are essential to the social and economic life of millions of people from the world’s small islands,” said Ambassador Marlene Moses of Nauru, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States. “Not only does the ocean provide us with food and income, for many of us it is inextricably tied to our culture and society. For us, marine conservation is not just about protecting ecosystems, it is about preserving a culture and a way of life that dates back thousands of years. The Earth Summit, therefore, presents a unique opportunity to build resiliency in people lives as well as ocean habitats."

The final draft text that will be presented to world leaders here includes positive steps to address ocean acidification, as well as marine pollution, fishing subsidies and overfishing. If faithfully implemented, these steps will help make the oceans healthier and more resilient to growing global threats like acidification.

“We are excited to be at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, working to support the Pacific Small Island Developing States and other nations who have successfully led efforts to use the summit as a platform for progress to protect our oceans, which are a source of food, oxygen, beauty and livelihoods for coastal communities around the world,” said Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice. “Ocean acidification has created renewed urgency to end overfishing and fisheries subsidies reduce pollution of ocean waters, and slow the rate of acidification of the ocean by reducing carbon emissions from our power plants, vehicles and other sources. This has been our priority for years and we will continue to work hard to press governments to implement the commitments made here in Rio.”

The side event today called upon world leaders to commit to increased cooperation and to action on oceans. Co-organizers included Pacific Small Island Developing States at the United Nations in New York (namely Fiji, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) together with Earthjustice.

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