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Photo credit: Sukanta Mondal, India - Commonwealth Photography Competition 2016.

World Oceans Day 2016 Theme - ‘Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet’

7 June 2016
Statement by: Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland

The potential of oceans to help meet the growing needs of human populations is huge, but marine resources are often under pressure from overexploitation and poor management. The Blue Economy offers opportunities for marine fish farming, renewable energy, ocean-related tourism and marine biotechnology.

Many Commonwealth member states have jurisdiction over ocean areas that far exceed the land area of the countries themselves. These ocean areas support a broad range of activities and services which have particular economic or social value and can play a leading role in building resilience and sustainable development.

I am determined to put the wealth into Commonwealth, and the ‘common’ into ‘wealth’, and this means helping all our member states to meet their needs and, among other things, develop their ocean space in ways that are fair and sustainable. Approaches are needed that integrate environmental management with economic development, fiscal policy and social goals.

The Commonwealth Charter speaks of ‘pursuing inclusive growth whilst preserving and conserving natural ecosystems and promoting social equity’. The Common Law, and similarities in our systems of governance and administration enable the Commonwealth to make important contributions towards ocean governance in our member states by granting technical assistance with regard to the delimitation of maritime boundaries, and providing expert guidance on legislation and other legal measures to protect their territorial waters and marine resources.

By offering specialist help on law reform the Commonwealth can help protect these precious assets, and the delicate balance of our oceans. They will continue to yield benefits and prosperity only if we share them wisely and with respect. For this to be realised it is essential that we redouble our efforts in practical ways, and work collectively and cooperatively towards the objective described by the World Oceans Day theme of ‘Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet’.