World Oceans Day Highlights Impacts of Climate Change on Marine Life

8 June 2009: World Oceans Day was celebrated officially for the first time on 8 June. The 2009 event focused on the theme “Our Oceans, Our Responsibility.” In a message to mark the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the impacts of human activities on marine life, emphasizing that climate change causes sea temperature increases, sea-level rise and ocean acidification.

Also to celebrate the Day, the UN Division for Oceans Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UNDOALOS) organized a panel discussion at UN Headquarters in New York, US. Speaking on the theme for the Day, Hasjim Djalal, Senior Adviser to the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia, highlighted that, according to the May issue of National Geographic, the Earth's icecaps have shrunk by almost half over the past 27 years. He stated that, without mitigation or adaptation efforts, Indonesia could lose up to 2,000 small islands by 2030. He drew attention to the World Ocean Conference hosted by his Government last month, which sought to increase cooperation on managing marine resources in the context of climate change and raise understanding of the role of oceans in regulating global climate. David Freestone, Professor at George Washington University Law School and Visiting Professor at the UN University (UNU), noted that, although the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is comprehensive, it has not envisaged such new challenges as climate change and the depletion of deep-sea biodiversity. He underscored that climate change threatens the ability of the oceans to process carbon and stressed the need to include oceans in the climate change debate, particularly in the context of the UNFCCC. [UN Secretary-General's Message][Press Conference on Panel Discussion]