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ASEAN conference hears of threat from ocean rubbish

Released at: 16:46, 14/05/2019

ASEAN conference hears of threat from ocean rubbish

Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affair

May 13-15 conference in Nha Trang discussing ocean plastic waste management.

by Jessica Nguyen

An ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) conference on ocean plastic waste management to ensure sustainable fishing and food security in Southeast Asia is taking place from May 13 to 15 in Nha Trang, south-central Khanh Hoa province, co-chaired by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs or equivalent in Vietnam, the US, and Thailand.

Experts estimate that 80 per cent of marine rubbish is mismanaged waste that enters the ocean from land-based sources. A good portion of the remainder is waste pollution from ships and abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear. Vietnam now discharges about 730,000 tons of plastic waste into the sea each year.

The nearly 100 delegates at the forum are experts, policy makers, and representatives of NGOs from 28 countries and territories and are discussing three related main themes: how to verify the importance of marine waste for regional countries, especially the 27 countries of the ARF, and the bad effects of plastic waste on sustainable fisheries management and food security; experiences and initiatives in resolving the issue of marine pollution; and specific recommendations for marine plastic waste issues to support fisheries and food security.

Addressing the conference, Mr. Vu Ho, Head of the ASEAN Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that marine rubbish (including microplastics) has emerged as a global threat to marine life, ecosystems, human health, and socioeconomic development. There are around 8 million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean every year, equivalent to a truck full of plastic waste every minute. Among the top 10 global polluting countries are five ASEAN countries.

“In its vision to 2025, ASEAN is committed to preventing and significantly reducing marine pollution,” he said. “The ‘ASEAN action framework’ on reducing ocean pollution is ongoing and I strongly believe that there is a strong commitment to accelerating action to address the problem.”

Ms. Caryn McClelland, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Hanoi, said that plastic pollution in oceans has seriously threatened its biodiversity, beaches, and human food supply and demands a broad and comprehensive set of solutions. Stakeholders need to develop and implement plastic management strategies to prevent and reduce marine plastic waste.

“The US is cooperating with NGOs, industry, academics, and partner countries to strengthen cooperation on global, regional, and local solutions to reduce plastic waste in oceans,” she said. “The challenge is particularly acute in the Indo-Pacific region, which encompasses more than half of the Earth’s surface and more than half of the world’s population. Two-thirds of global trade also happens here, and the strategic importance of the region’s economy is growing day-by-day. The largest sources of plastic waste are all in the Indo-Pacific, but we also see opportunities to improve technical capacity and address financing gaps for critical waste-management infrastructure.”

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