Protecting the oceans: Chile’s approach

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Jose Miguel Capdevila - The Philippine Star

Chile is an ocean country, with one of the Planet‘s largest Exclusive Economic Zones and a coastline measuring over 6,400 kilometers. As a fundamental part of Chile‘s development, the ocean thus offers many opportunities but also challenges in order to reconcile its conservation and sustainable use. Bearing this in mind is in our national interest to take action to protect the ocean and to align the policies and efforts being undertaken with international experience and best practices.

Therefore, Chile’s government  attaches great importance to international cooperation as a driver to achieve the highest standards for the protection of the oceans on a global scale. Consistent with this purpose, my country is actively participating in various international fora such as the High Level Panel on Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy, the United Nations Ocean Conference and the “Because the Ocean,”  whose fifth Conference ( previously was convened in Washington DC 2014; Santiago 2015; Washington DC 2016; Malta 2017) was held in Bali last October. This event in Indonesia brought together world leaders, businessmen and representatives of the civil society from around the world, with the aim of establishing commitments and reaching solutions to tackle ocean pollution.

In his speech in Bali Chile‘s Foreign Minister Roberto Ampuero presented to the international community the concrete actions developed and implemented nationally to promote the protection of the oceans and its environment. Thus the Minister alluded to the legislation  prohibiting the use of plastic bags mentioning that “the law contributes to a significant reduction in the negative effects associated with climate change, reducing the carbon footprint that chileans generate by using, on average, more than 200 single-use plastic bags per year on a per capita base.” He referred also to the Extended Producer Responsibility Law, which seeks to establish an efficient public policy for waste management: “with this milestone Chile takes a historic step, becoming the first Latin American country to adopt this type of legislation, which will increase the reuse rates, currently 10%, thus reducing the volume of waste sent to sanitary landfills and to the ocean,” he said. In addition, the Chancellor pointed out the public campaign that seeks to raise  awareness about the massive use of straws, promoting the limited use of these as a way to free the country’s coastal areas of plastics, a measure that has been complemented with the permanent cleaning of the beaches by personnel of the Chilean Navy and volunteers from the civil society. On top of these facts, Chile is making major improvements as regards Marine Protected Areas with more than 43% of its Economic Exclusive Zone covered by this legal status that aims inter alia at promoting sustainable and responsible fishing activities.

Next year Chile will host for the second time the APEC Summit. The issue of marine litter and more sustainable management of waste on land has been present in APEC debates and included in the declarations of recent years. This time, as announced by our Foreign Minister, Chile would like to go further by establishing a High Level Dialogue on the critical issue of sustainable oceans.

The scale of devastation of the oceans in the globe is alarming according to international data available. Global warming is accelerating this process with its toll in terms of marine biodiversity and sea water acidity among other detrimental effects. Pollutants and toxic waste – especially plastic – is being dumped relentlessly. According to a recent scientific study micro plastic particles are being transferred from fish intake to humans thus putting at risk our health. Against this backdrop the international community as a whole must act with resolve and come to grips with this bleak reality affecting oceans and seas. The clock is ticking away. Our legacy to the future generations is at stake.

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(Jose Miguel Capdevila is the Ambassador of Chile.)

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