Message from María Fernanda Espinosa, President of the UN General Assembly

Celebration of World Wildlife Day 2019, “Life below water: for People and Planet” 

“Life below water” may sound far away from our daily life; a subject best left to scientists and marine biologists; but it is anything but. Increasingly we are coming to understand how connected our world is and how much impact our actions are having on the oceans, on the rivers and waterways, and in turn on the wildlife, above and below water, that have come to rely on them.

The ocean contains nearly 200,000 identified species, with many more as-yet unaccounted for. At the same time, more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.

We all see the world’s forests as the Earth’s lungs, but more than half of the oxygen in our atmosphere is produced by the ocean. Its health is in fact vital to ours.

In celebration of World Wildlife Day 2019 and this year’s theme of “Life below water”, I would like to highlight the incredibly important issue of plastic pollution in our seas and oceans and the devastating impact that this is having on marine ecosystems, on marine wildlife, and on biodiversity.

Each year we throw about 8 million metric tons of plastic into the ocean. That means that every minute a garbage truck worth of plastic makes its way to the sea. Some of this plastic remains in its original form, while much more is broken down into microplastics that are consumed by fish and other creatures, eventually finding their way into our own food, our own water.

This is not the way we treat our home, our planet. This is not the way we maintain a sustainable and healthy ecosystem.

As President of the General Assembly, I have committed to tackling plastic pollution in our oceans and water ways. I hope you will join me in this regard. Together, we can protect the oceans, sustain the wildlife that depends on them, and ensure a future for our survival.

Thank you.