Intervention by His Excellency Dr. Hussain Niyaaz, Secretary, Economic and Development Cooperation Side Event on Ocean-based Climate Action 80th Session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mr/Madam. Moderator,

The Maldives is a nation deeply intertwined with the fate of our oceans, specifically our coastal and marine ecosystems. Our survival hinges on the health of our oceans and the urgency and timeliness of the actions we take to mitigate the negative effects of climate change on the coastal and marine environment.

As we approach the 2025 United Nations Oceans Conference, we remain confident that the upcoming regional dialogue on ‘ocean-based climate action’ will provide much-needed insights into the opportunities that are availed, and the challenges faced.

Climate change, overexploitation of marine resources, pollution, unsustainable land and sea use and biodiversity loss are ravaging marine ecosystems at an alarming rate, affecting the well-being of millions of people who depend on the ocean for sustenance and income. As such, the Maldives faces significant threats from climate change, particularly from sea-level rise.

Prioritizing marine ecosystem conservation involves establishing protected areas, implementing sustainable fishing and tourism practices, and reducing pollution and ghost gear effects on marine megafauna and ecosystems. The Maldives is committed to safeguarding critical habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds, to further enhance the resilience of marine ecosystems and ensure their long-term survival.

Several measures have been implemented at the national level by the Maldives including the endorsement of the 30x30 target of the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, as part of the Global Ocean Alliance and the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People. We are also expanding the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) network in the Maldives and ensuring the effectiveness of those areas. So far we have designated three atolls as UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, with plans to establish additional reserves within five years.

The Maldivian waters are a sanctuary for several species. All species of sharks, rays, turtles, and cetaceans are protected under law in the Maldives. Additionally, 207 species of birds, including migratory bird species have been protected. Our work does not end there. The Maldives Red List Initiative assesses 5 marine turtle species and 39 coral species, with several critically endangered and vulnerable.

Mr/Madam. Moderator,

The economy of the Maldives has been mainly reliant on tuna fishing for generations and has been practising sustainable catching method of pole and line with a fish at a time catch. he Maldives prohibits the use of net fishing and other destructive methods by law. Despite these, due to changes in the oceanography of the Indian Ocean, we have seen an impact on productivity and migration patterns which would disproportionately affect the local communities dependent on fishing. Understanding climate science in the Indian Ocean is crucial for sustainable fisheries management and ensuring the resilience of Indian Ocean stocks amidst climate-induced challenges.

For large ocean states like the Maldives, any harm to the ocean, through plastic pollution including microplastics or other climate change-based problems, threatens the coral reefs, fish stocks, and beaches that are not only the lifeline of our two key industries: fisheries and tourism, but it also harms the coral reefs that serve as the first line of defence in protecting our islands against sea swells, king tides, and beach erosion.

We have taken specific measures to phase out single-use plastics. Regulation on importing, producing, and selling selected single-use plastic products has been implemented in phases. We are also actively participating in the intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop a treaty to combat plastic pollution, including the marine environment.

Mr/Madam. Moderator,

As a custodian of a vast ocean expanse, the Maldives is also undertaking the necessary domestic procedures to sign and ratify the BBNJ Treaty. We are confident in the crucial role of the treaty in establishing ocean regime equity, in particular, transfer of marine technology, capacity building and equitable sharing of benefits arising from marine genetic resources.

Rising ocean surface temperatures that destroy reefs, which act as a natural defence for islands, are often the cause of coral bleaching and other damage. Corals' regeneration and growth are crucial for improving reef health, providing protection, restoring habitats, and restoring ecosystem balance.

The natural recovery of corals is hindered by the increasingly frequent occurrence of extended periods of elevated temperatures. Active restoration of coral reefs has been a challenge due to the scalability of existing technology. The Maldives along with Australia are working to develop a cost-effective and scalable solution for large-scale coral reef restoration.

In conclusion, the 2025 United Nations Ocean Conference presents a unique opportunity to come together and chart a course toward a more sustainable future for our oceans. Let us rise to the occasion, united behind a shared vision of ocean-based climate action, and pave the way for a healthier, more resilient planet for future generations.

I thank you.

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