May 8 is celebrated as the World Ocean Day, so I’m sending celebratory greetings to everyone, specially to our “Ocean Commonwealth” and our youth champions.

We celebrate World Ocean Day this year at a time when our Mother Ocean, the origin of life on Earth, is under unprecedented stress.

We are all being called to give and to be beacons of hope to solve the interconnected climate and biodiversity crises that continue to worsen by the day. We are reminded at the same time that we have the potential to strive in the achievement of not only SDG 14, “Life Below Water”, but the SDGs as a whole, especially those to do with poverty, hunger, good health and well-being, and decent work and economic growth, among others.

This is where the Commonwealth Blue Charter and Marine Protected Areas can be an even brighter light in that beacon of hope and potential. Seychelles co-champions the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on Marine Protected Areas with our sister Small Island Developing State of Barbados. May I here warmly greet Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, and Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, Youth Climate Ambassador Maya Delaney, and other fellow speakers.

A small oceanic state, but a big believer in leading by example on ocean protection, Seychelles is currently strengthening the management of the 32% of our vast ocean space that is already under protection.

Two weeks ago, I signed a couple of instruments protecting even more areas of our EEZ. Presently, we are assessing our blue carbon ecosystems and soon the mangroves and seagrass meadows throughout our archipelago will be under 100% protection. These are nature-based solutions to mitigate climate change as part of our NDC to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Equally important, we also champion the development of the Blue Economy as a path for fellow island and ocean states towards sustainable development and economic diversification. Our commitment to the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on MPAs and to the building of a Blue Economy strategy is precisely because we firmly believe that we cannot create wealth and provide food, jobs, livelihoods and a comfortable standard of living to our people and tackle the climate and biodiversity crises without a healthy, resilient and productive ocean!

SDG 14 reminds us of important goals and what we have to put emphasis on such as conservation and biodiversity, science and research, fishing and aquaculture, economic benefits, tourism and sustainable use of marine resources, and ocean health and resilience.

As the title of this event implies, Marine Protected Areas play a critical role in ensuring this, not as a barrier but as a means to a development that is good for people, for biodiversity and ecosystems, for the climate and for Planet Earth and humankind.

May I, therefore, end by calling on everyone to be even more proactive and committed, given the severity and complexity of the challenges the Commonwealth and the World face in championing the One Ocean as a critical source of hope, potential and solutions.

I thank you all.

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