Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
THE OCEAN GIVES AND THE OCEAN TAKES
The reality of this old saying is engraved in the minds and hearts of my forefathers living out their lives in the middle of the North Atlantic – an ocean that has claimed countless lives of Icelandic fisherfolk through the centuries. I say fisherfolk, because women also fished in Icelandic waters from early days.
But in the 20th centuries it was the fisheries that made the transformation Iceland from a Small Island Developing State to a modern welfare society possible.
Small Island communities like Iceland have always been fully aware of the importance of the oceans as the basis of their existence and the need for sustainable management of ocean resources – to secure what we now call BLUE GROWTH
Earlier this week a group of small island states met here in Malta to discuss Blue Growth
What quickly emerged was the common understanding that even though our islands are small in landmass and populations, they are Large Ocean Nations – and no one has more to gain or lose by the health of the oceans.
But we all know the challenges.
Climate change, sea level rise, extreme weather events – all have had devastating effects on small island communities.
Climate change has brought changes in distribution of fish stocks, but I firmly believe that responsible, robust and flexible fisheries management is able to cope with this challenge – and Iceland has a good track record in more than soccer, we also have one in sustainably managing our main fish stocks.
But fisheries management is deemed to fail unless we have healthy, clean oceans. Therefore ocean pollution, plastic particles and acidification of the oceans - due to uptake of carbon dioxide are deeply troubling.
We need all nations to acknowledge and address the causes of climate change and ocean pollution and have the political courage to take responsible decisions and actions based on the best available science.
Fake news and skewed viewpoints are not helpful when facing difficult and complex problems – nor overly pessimistic or optimistic presentation of facts or sometimes plain disregard of scientific findings. We have had more than enough of those flying around on both climate change and the state of fish stocks worldwide. To solve complex pressing problems we need sound science, innovative solutions. We need to support our scientific community and connect academia, private sector and innovators. We need to engage youth and women in the Blue Economy.
And not least we need to acknowledge that the worldwide community needs to work together and take responsibility for solving the problem.
Iceland´s commitment to this end is to:
ensure that the country can meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement by reducing emissions from transport and fisheries by using low-carbon fuels and electricity and other means; using green taxes and incentives; reducing waste and better waste handling; carbon capture; and increase carbon uptake by restoring forests, vegetation and wetlands.
Iceland has also committed to launch a ground-breaking 13-year effort to map the remaining 88% of its Icelandic Economic Exclusive Zone. All data that is made available from the project will be available for use free of charge for non-profit use.
Finally, Iceland has committed to adopt additional Fisheries Management Plans with long term precautionary Harvest Control Rules for commercially harvested fish stocks in Icelandic waters as well as Iceland commits to reduce marine litter in its waters over the next three years, focusing on plastic.
As we all know the tasks ahead will not be achieved unless we all collaborate.
On behalf of small Island – Large Ocean Nations I hereby use the call of my forefathers when their survival was at stake – ALL HANDS ON DECK.