By William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, June 8 (Xinhua) -- World Oceans Day was celebrated on Thursday at UN Headquarters during the high-level Ocean Conference among some 1,700 delegates advocating healthier oceans, now plagued with pollution, over-fishing and for coastal areas, rising sea levels due to climate change.
Damian Cardona Onses, spokesman for the conference, announced more than 1,000 governments and organizations around the globe had registered voluntary commitments to mitigating damage to the oceans.
The 102-story Empire State building, 443 meters tall, in Midtown Manhattan and only about 1.5 kilometers form UN Headquarters, was to bathe in blue light to mark the evening, he said.
"On this World Oceans Day, we look to the future," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "Caring for, and using, our oceans in sustainable ways is critical to achieve ecological and economic goals for communities everywhere."
"However, the future of our oceans is burdened by numerous threats -- such as climate change and ocean acidification, pollution, unsustainable and destructive fishing practices -- and the lack of capacities to address these threats," he said.
Returning to a familiar campaign, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the UN chief called it "an ambitious framework which, together, we will use to address these threats and improve people's lives. The World Oceans Day provides an important opportunity to advocate for a sustainable future."
"Ready to launch a call for action, governments, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society have gathered this week ... to support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development," he said.
Guterres looked to effectively manage the threats through collaboration among many sectors, a collective resolve to find solutions to common problems and pressing forward so "we can ensure that our oceans are peaceful, safe and bountiful, and remain healthy as our blue home."
President Peter Thomson of the UN General Assembly, who hails from the South Pacific island nation of Fiji, said the celebration wasn't limited to UN Headquarters by any means.
"Every year on June 8 on every continent around the world, events are held in honor of the ocean," he said. "To those participating in those events today we send greetings of solidarity. Here at the United Nations, on this fourth day of our historic Ocean Conference, we are joining hands with brothers and sisters from every corner of this planet to celebrate the majesty of the ocean."
"We celebrate the global consciousness that has now risen strong in recognition of the pressing need for humankind to begin righting the wrongs we have brought upon the Ocean," Thomson said.
During the four days of the conference, the message has been brought loud and clear that the world's blue waters are suffering plastic pollution -- and other debris -- that takes it toll in marine life, already suffering from illegal fishing.
"The momentum swelling from the Ocean Conference is immense," the GA President said. "It is beating against the mindlessness of marine pollution, driving the muck back from where it came for recycling or abstinence. It is propelling rationality for the good of all into the elimination of harmful fisheries subsidies and decisive action to end destructive and illegal fishing practices."
He expressed hope the swell of support for reclaiming the seas "will carry us forward to sustainable fisheries management, and the restoration of fish stocks in the shortest feasible time.
Director-General Irina Bokova of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), who participated in the conference, has advocated for more maritime research, saying that a healthy ocean requires robust global knowledge of ocean science.
In her message commemorating the day, she said, "We cannot manage what we cannot measure, and no single country is able to measure the myriad changes taking place in the ocean. From Fiji to Sweden, from Namibia to the Arctic, all governments and partners must share knowledge to craft common science-based policies."
According to UNESCO, oceans give humankind the keys to its survival, from oxygen to a well-functioning climate, to key elements of our natural and human heritage.