Message by Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf
Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Oceans are at the centre of our life. They are the provider of the crucial goods and services
required by human beings and other creatures. They regulate our climate. They are the refuge
and home to so much life on our planet. Yet, they are under siege more than ever before. Today,
we need to stop our unsustainable practices, focus on these vast reservoirs of our world and look
at them as an important part of the web of life.
This year’s global celebration of World Oceans Day takes on added significance because 2010 is
the International Year of Biodiversity. It also marks the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of
the Jakarta Mandate in the Ministerial Statement of the second meeting of the Conference of the
Parties to the Convention as a new global consensus on the importance of marine and coastal
biodiversity. Moreover, 2010 is only two years away from the target year set at the World
Summit on Sustainable Development for the establishment of representative networks of marine
At this historic moment, we need to take stock of the challenges ahead of us. The third edition of
Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3), launched world-wide last month, describes the current
state of world biodiversity, including marine and coastal biodiversity. Despite progress made at
different levels toward meeting 2010 biodiversity target, GBO-3 alarmed the world community
with gloomy news on the status of biodiversity. Multiple indicators demonstrated continuing
biodiversity loss at unprecedented rate. It also identified global climate change as one of the most
important driving forces behind the continuing decline of biodiversity.
Coastal habitats such as mangroves, seagrass beds, salt marshes and shellfish reefs continue to
decline in extent, threatening highly valuable ecosystem services. Such decline also diminishes
their ability to remove significant quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
About one fifth of the world’s mangroves, covering 36,000 square kilometres, were lost between
1980 and 2005. The quantity of carbon buried each year by vegetated coastal habitats has been estimated at between 120 and 329 million tonnes, a range almost equal to the annual greenhouse
gas emissions of Japan.
Tropical coral reefs, which contribute significantly to the livelihoods and security of coastal
regions, have suffered a significant global decline in biodiversity since the 1970s. Between
500 million and one billion people rely on coral reefs as a food source. Coral reefs also support
approximately 25 per cent of all marine fish species. This important habitat, however, faces
multiple threats including overfishing, land-based pollution, and destructive fishing as well as
bleaching due to increased sea temperatures.
Moreover, rising carbon-dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will result in sea-water
becoming more acidic, reducing the biocalcification of tropical and cold-water coral reefs as well
as other shell-forming organisms, such as calcareous phytoplankton, and impacting the entire
marine food chain. Unfortunately, we do not know yet clearly the magnitude and frequency of
Likewise, GBO-3 presented possible future outcomes for biodiversity change during the rest of
the twenty-first century. Continuing species extinctions far above the historic rate, loss of
habitats and changes in the distribution and abundance of species are projected throughout this
century according to all scenarios. If the Earth’s ecosystem are pushed beyond certain thresholds
or tipping points, there is a high risk of dramatic biodiversity loss and accompanying degradation
of a broad range of ecosystem services.
The challenges are considerable. But there are opportunities before us, if we act. Such irreversible
changes in biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation can be prevented, significantly reduced or
even reversed, only if strong action is applied urgently and comprehensively at international,
national and local levels.
In this regard, the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity will adopt in Nagoya, at their
meeting, a new Strategic Plan for the period 2011-2020, which contains strategic goals and
targets for mobilizing urgent and comprehensive action at the international level in order to
reverse the tide of rapid biodiversity loss.
Moreover, the Nagoya meeting of the Conference of the Parties will be preceded by a high-level
meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York exclusively devoted to
Actions that specifically address the degradation of ocean ecosystems will be central to these
discussions. We already know that some of the actions can have multiple impacts. Saving
biodiversity can help us to combat climate change. Saving biodiversity can be a route to
sustainable development and protect the livelihoods of communities and economies that rely on
As evidenced in GBO-3, our common challenges are indeed overwhelming. Such challenges will
not, however, stop us from creating major opportunities for biodiversity conservation during this
2010 International Year of Biodiversity.
I therefore call upon citizens and decision makers to take the steps needed to protect biodiversity
in the oceans of our world. Take the steps now, so that we can say, in 2012, that it was in the
International Year of Biodiversity, when we set the correct course for a sustainable future.