The Ministry of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping is finalising the Regulations which will be promulgated to give legal force to Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) which was signed by Mauritius in 1995. The most important feature of this Annex is the complete ban on the disposal into the sea of all forms of plastic.
This announcement was made this morning by the Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, Mr Premdut Koonjoo, at the opening of a seminar organised on the occasion of World Oceans Day 2018 at the Octave Wiehe auditorium in Réduit. He deplored that oceans are in danger of facing transboundary challenges such as Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing, overfishing, ocean acidification, climate change, and plastic pollution. He pointed out that plastic pollution is causing tremendous harm to marine resources while adding that our oceans are silently drowning in plastic.
Mr Koonjoo highlighted that international studies revealed that eight million tons of plastic garbage end in the ocean every year. It is estimated that plastic accounts for 80% of marine litter and that by 2050, there may be more plastics than fish in our oceans, he pointed out.
He recalled that Mauritius has no natural resources such as gold, minerals or petrol but a vast maritime zone of 2.3 million square kilometres which offer huge potentials. The resources of the sea, he underpinned, have to be sustainably exploited since Mauritius depends on the resources which the ocean can offer.
The Minister stated that Government is fully aware of the immense potential of the ocean and has pledged for a cleaner and safer ocean while adding that his Ministry has set up a dedicated Ocean Economy Unit with the mandate to implement projects for sustainable management of the resources of the oceans, and to take meaningful measures to prevent pollution of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
He underscored that at the international level, during the last Commonwealth Heads of States meeting which was held in London in April 2018, Mauritius joined the Action groups on Coral Reef restoration and Plastic Pollution with other Commonwealth Member States. Mauritius is also partnering with other friendly countries to tap the resources within our EEZ.
For her part, the Director of the Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI), Dr Ruby Moothien Pillay, highlighted that plastic pollution's reality bears sobering consequences and is as dangerous as climate change. Hence the need, she underlined, to be proactive and to work collectively so as to create a sustainable ocean for the youth of tomorrow.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mauritius (UoM), Prof. D. Jhurry, spoke about the major role that the ocean plays in our lives and the impacts of human actions on the ocean. He stated that the UoM is committed to lead training research in the ocean sector while adding that the marine sector is one of the five poles of innovations for the UoM.
In the context of the World Oceans Day, the Ministry of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping is organising several activities. They are: one-day seminar at the University of Mauritius on 8 June; cleaning of beach and sea at Mahebourg and Blue Bay Marine Park on 9 June by divers of the Ministry, the MOI and other NGOs; and a cleaning campaign at Pointe Jerome.
The theme this year is "Preventing Plastic Pollution and Encouraging Solutions for a healthy Ocean". The focus is on plastic pollution which is causing tremendous harm to our marine resources. For example: 80% of all pollution in the ocean comes from people on land; eight million tonnes of plastic per year ends up in the ocean, wreaking havoc on wildlife, fisheries and tourism; plastic pollution costs the lives of 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals per year; and plastic causes $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems each year.