Messages for World Wildlife Day 2019

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... See more

Message from António Guterres, Secretary-General of United Nations

Marine species provide indispensable ecosystem services. Plankton enrich the atmosphere with oxygen and more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for sustenance and livelihoods. Marine and coastal resources and the industries they support are estimated to be worth at least US$3 trillion a year, some 5 per cent of global GDP. 

Sustainably managing and protecting marine and coastal ecosystems are the objectives of Goal 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Today, ocean life is under severe pressure, ranging from climate change to pollution, the loss of coastal habitats and the overexploitation of marine species. Some one-third of commercial fish stocks are overfished, and many other species – from albatrosses to turtles – are imperilled by the unsustainable use of ocean resources.

The good news is that solutions are available. For example, where fisheries are managed scientifically, most fish stocks have a good chance of recovery. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) is increasing regulation of marine species. And the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is engaged in crafting a post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

On this World Wildlife Day, let us raise awareness about the... See more

Message from Hon. John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's resolve towards eradication of the menace of illegal trade of endangered species is well documented and we remain firmly committed to the protection of all species. As a marine and biological hotspot in the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka is proud to host CITES CoP in May this year. The fact that the conference in Sri Lanka is carbon sensitive goes to show our commitment towards environmental protection. Therefore Sri Lanka will be celebrating World Wildlife Day 2019 in a very meaningful manner by rededicating ourselves to the protection and wellbeing of all wildlife that have made our beautiful island their home.

Message from Achim Steiner, Administrator of United Nations Development Programme

Did you know that every second breath we take is thanks to microscopic ocean plankton who produce half of the oxygen on earth?

To date, scientists have identified over 240,000 marine species in the ocean, and we continue to discover around 2,000 new species every year, from fish to cetaceans to molluscs.

Imagine that just one litre of seawater may contain 38,000 different kinds of microbes.

The ocean, and the incredible biodiversity it contains, provides critical services every day to every member of our society, from food security to genetic resources to regulating global climate – to providing the oxygen we breathe.

Yet, despite our dependence on it, marine wildlife faces multiple threats including, the ‘triple threat’ of climate change, causing ocean acidification, warming, and deoxygenation.

5 to 12 million tonnes of plastic now enter the ocean every year, threatening the health of countless species - from the smallest zooplankton to the largest whales.

90% of large predators have already been taken out of the ocean by overfishing, some 30% of fish stocks are overexploited, and over 500 hypoxic areas have become ‘dead zones’ uninhabitable for most species.

To reverse this, a literal ‘sea change’ is required... See more

Message from Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Oceans are a major source of oxygen for our planet. Fish and other marine resources provide a prominent source of food. Millions of people are employed in the fisheries sector worldwide.
This year’s theme for World Wildlife Day, “Life below Water: for People and Planet,” refers to the ways in which life below water plays a vital role in global food security, poverty alleviation and human prosperity — in sustaining life above water. In adopting Goal 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals, the world committed itself to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”. 
The fisheries sector, however, faces widespread illegality both on land and at sea, from corruption, fraud and money laundering to human trafficking and poaching of marine life. Fisheries crime has become a highly profitable form of transnational organized crime that is threatening the sustainable use of marine resources, with impacts on development and the global economy. 
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is fully engaged in supporting member states to confront the many serious offences committed along the fisheries value chain. UNODC works at the frontline with criminal justice institutions,... See more

Message from Mukyisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

As we salute “Life Below Water: for People and Planet” on this 2019 World Wildlife Day, our oceans and ocean life are under serious threat from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, overfishing, plastic pollution, rising ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification.

Irresponsible and unethical harvesting and trading practices are targeting commercially valuable species of shark, ray, fish, conch, and coral, putting the livelihoods of more than 3 billion people in coastal communities at risk.

Regulating “from fish to dish” in seafood and other marine-based value chains is an important way of responding to the decline in marine wildlife and recognizing the importance of marine and coastal biodiversity to coastal communities, the world over.

The role of CITES in regulating such trade to ensure traceability, sustainability and legality in sourcing of marine products must be praised and underlined.

At UNCTAD we are doing our part to meet SDG 14 by seeking to phase out subsidies that contribute to IUU fishing, overfishing, and overcapacity. We are also working to help countries implement electronic customs procedures that enable countries to comply with national and international regulations under CITES, and to pursue a Blue... See more

Message from Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment

Our oceans provide food, nourishment and livelihoods to over 3 billion people on Earth.

In 2019, World Wildlife Day focuses on life below water, celebrating the critical role oceans play for both people and planet.  

Our aim is also to draw attention to their plight.

Climate change, human activity and marine pollution are having a devastating impact on life below water.

One-third of global fish stocks are over-exploited.

At least 8 million tons of plastic flows into our seas every year.

And ocean warming is destroying coral reefs around the world.

On World Wildlife Day, UN Environment’s Clean Seas and Wild for Life campaigns are joining forces to raise awareness and drive action to protect the marine world.

Saving Seas Just Got Personal.

As part of our campaign we are introducing nine new marine species.

These creatures, great, small and the unexpected, all face numerous threats to their survival.

So, this World Wildlife Day we encourage you to find your kindred marine species and make saving our seas personal.

Each and every one of us can turn the tide for our oceans.

Message from Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General of CITES

When we think about wildlife most of us picture elephants, rhinos and tigers – all important land-based species that are regularly on the agenda of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). But we should not forget about life below water and the important contribution they make to sustainable development, as enshrined in Goal 14 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Marine wildlife has sustained human civilization and development for millennia, from providing food and nourishment, to enriching our lives culturally, spiritually, and recreationally. Every year fisheries generate $362 billion to the global economy. Marine ecotourism offers individuals an educational and adventurous experience and also provides livelihoods for coastal communities.

Alarmingly, despite its critical importance, life below water faces many threats, amongst them an area of primary concern for CITES, which is their unsustainable exploitation for international trade. CITES provides a safety net for our threatened marine life and it has a long history of regulating international trade in marine species to ensure that this trade does not threaten their survival. This role has significantly expanded over recent years, with CITES Parties agreeing to list an increasing number of... See more

Message from Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary-General of Ramsar Convention Secretariat

For the first time the World Wildlife Day is focusing on wildlife below water to highlight the critical issues and values of marine wildlife.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, to which 170 States are now Parties, provides the global legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of all wetlands. These wetlands include marine and coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, lagoons, tidal flats, coral reefs and sea grass meadows in addition to inland freshwater wetlands.

Few people realize that wetlands are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth. Coastal and marine wetlands are important nursery and feeding areas for species such as fish, dugongs, and marine turtles.

Wetland-dependent species are in serious decline as a result of the loss of 87% of the global wetlands since 1700. Wetland loss has affected 36% of coastal and marine species.

A key obligation of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention is the designation of wetlands of exceptional value as ‘Wetlands of International Importance’ also called ’Ramsar Sites’. By doing so, Parties commit to the long-term conservation and sustainable use of these Sites. Currently there are 2,270 Ramsar Sites worldwide, 974 of them are coastal or marine areas, covering over 73... See more

Message from Callie Veelenturf, Representative of Youth for Wildlife Conservation

“Life below water” – doesn’t it sound so romantic? The vast blue expanse has a universally calming, peace-inducing effect on the human race, yet for ocean wildlife actually living below water, a one-sided war is raging.

I am often asked why I spend a majority of my time studying sea turtles, when there are thousands of other species that need attention, many of which are even closer to extinction. Sea turtles are a flagship species, I would even call them a gateway species. It is easy to inspire school children and patrons alike to become involved in wildlife conservation by discussing the plight of these charismatic reptiles. By studying them and the threats affecting their survival, we open the doors to engaging conversations regarding the biggest threats facing our oceans today: climate change, destructive fishing practices and pollution.

By sparking passionate conversations about ocean conservation issues across country boundaries, occupations and generations, we have the opportunity to share knowledge and form partnerships for global change and positive action. Engaging the youth is particularly important, as people under the age of thirty represent over half of the world’s population. Many of us are dedicating our lives to protecting the world’s oceans... See more