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Sustainable Ocean Initiative Global Dialogue with Regional Seas Organizations and Regional Fisheries Bodies on Accelerating Progress Towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, Seoul, Republic of Korea


Sustainable Ocean Initiative Global Dialogue with Regional Seas Organizations and Regional Fisheries Bodies on Accelerating Progress Towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets
Seoul, Republic of Korea, 26 September 2016
Speech by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim

“How global implementation can support national and regional efforts for achieving Aichi Biodiversity Targets and Sustainable Development Goals: the case of the International Maritime Organization”

Ladies and gentlemen,

Oceans cover around 70 percent of our planet’s surface. Not only do we need them, literally, to survive; they also support our society in so many different ways.

The world’s oceans provide raw materials, energy, food, employment, a place to live, a place to relax and the means to transport about 80 percent of global trade.

The very identity of hundreds of countries and regions around the world is historically and geographically entwined with the sea and the oceans.

And there are many industries that rely entirely on access to ocean resources, services and space, such as maritime transport, offshore oil and gas, ports, renewable energy, fisheries, aquaculture, marine tourism, and seabed mining.

These, in turn, generate other industries that are also dependent on maritime activities – in IMO’s world, for example, you can think of shipbuilding and repair, ship design, ship broking and chartering, vessel traffic management, maritime pilotage and many more.

If all of these are included in what we call the ‘blue economy’, then it is clear we are addressing a very sizeable industrial sector – and one that is growing, too. Ocean-based industries are already large and they are expanding rapidly.

But this situation has an inherent problem: the success and growth of these industries is actually threatening the integrity of the element that sustains and supports them and gives them life – the sea.

In this context, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets represent one of the major sets of conservation benchmarks for the current decade.

Biodiversity and ecosystems also feature prominently in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. In particular, Sustainable Development Goal 14 provides extensive targets on marine biodiversity and ecosystems.

It aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources and emphasizes the strong linkages between marine biodiversity and broader sustainable development objectives, and reflects the key elements of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

As a specialized agency of the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping. Our main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and implemented.

This framework covers all aspects of technical matters relating to the safety of ships and of life at sea, efficiency of navigation, and the prevention and control of marine and air pollution from ships.

Altogether, IMO has developed and adopted more than 50 international  conventions and protocols, supported by more than 1,000 codes and recommendations concerning maritime safety and security, the prevention of pollution and related matters

With one or two exceptions, we don’t specifically map or benchmark our work against the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. However, it is clear that many IMO instruments, when implemented correctly, contribute to the sustainable use of ocean resources in order to protect and preserve marine biodiversity.

The most obvious and direct link is with Aichi Target 9, which deals with invasive alien species. This is recognized as one of the greatest threats to the ecological and economic well-being of the planet, causing enormous damage to biodiversity and the valuable natural riches of the earth. Human health can be affected and the damage to the environment is often irreversible.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, ships are one of the main vectors for aquatic invasive species, in the ballast water they regularly carry to maintain safe operating conditions throughout a voyage, especially when not carrying a full load of cargo, and as biofouling on ships' hulls.

A multitude of aquatic species may be carried in ships’ ballast tanks and on ships' hulls across huge distances and then discharged into ecosystems where they are not native. These organisms include bacteria, microbes, small invertebrates, eggs, cysts and larvae of various species. The transferred species may survive to become invasive, out-competing native species and multiplying into pest proportions.

In 2004, IMO Member States adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments – known as the BWM Convention. Having taken a long time to gain sufficient ratifications from Member States, the BWM Convention will enter into force in September 2017.

Under the Convention’s terms, ships will be required to manage their ballast water to remove, render harmless, or avoid the uptake or discharge of aquatic organisms and pathogens within ballast water and sediments.

But the accumulation of aquatic organisms on ships' hulls, referred to as biofouling, poses a threat to the aquatic environment which is comparable to, and in some regions even surpasses, that posed by ballast water. To combat this threat, in 2011 IMO adopted the guidelines for the control and management of ships’ biofouling, which represents another significant achievement towards reducing the transfer of invasive aquatic species by ships.

Turning now to measures to help promote the health of the oceans in more general terms, undoubtedly the most significant and far reaching from IMO’s perspective is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, or MARPOL.

MARPOL was first adopted in 1973 and has subsequently been expanded and updated.

As it stands today, MARPOL has six annexes, which respectively contain comprehensive regulations on preventing pollution from ships by oil, chemicals, other harmful substances, sewage, garbage and atmospheric emissions.

MARPOL addresses both accidental pollution from ships and pollution from routine operations. It is detailed and comprehensive, covering a wide range of topics that stretch from requiring that oil tankers must be built with a double hull, to specifying exactly what may or may not be discharged from ships into the sea.

Another important global measure within IMO’s remit is the "Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972", known as the "London Convention". This was one of the first global conventions designed to protect the marine environment from human activities and entered into force in 1975.

In 1996, the "London Protocol" was agreed to further modernize the Convention and, eventually, replace it. This represents a major change of approach to the question of how to regulate the use of sea to deposit waste materials.

The 1972 Convention permitted wastes to be dumped at sea, except for certain materials on a banned list; whereas the 1996 Protocol prohibits dumping of wastes, except for those on a list of exceptions.

Another key area of IMO’s work to help protect the health of the oceans and thereby support biodiversity is the designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas, or PSSAs.

A PSSA is an area that needs special protection because of its significance for recognized ecological, socio-economic, cultural or scientific reasons and which may be vulnerable to damage by international maritime activities.

When an area is approved as a PSSA, specific measures can be used to control the maritime activities in that area, such as routeing, strict application of MARPOL discharge and equipment requirements for ships, such as oil tankers; and installation of Vessel Traffic Services.

To date, 15 PSSAs have been designated, including iconic locations such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands.

And there are other areas of IMO’s work which also make a contribution towards the Aichi targets. I am thinking, for example, of our work with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; or our measures to route shipping lanes away from cetaceans and other marine mammals.

But the development and adoption of regulations and guidelines is only half the story. Another key concern for IMO is implementation – and I note that a discussion of how global implementation can support national and regional efforts for achieving biodiversity and sustainability targets is a key element of this forum. 

Global, uniform implementation is absolutely vital to the success of IMO instruments. You cannot imagine a world in which different standards applied to a ship at each end of its voyage. It would simply be unable to operate.

Implementation of IMO instruments is, ultimately, the responsibility of the Organization’s Member States and the shipping industry. But the Organization itself, including the Secretariat, also has a role to play.

IMO’s extensive technical cooperation programme, in which it identifies particular needs among Member States that may lack resources, expertise or both, and match them to offers of help and assistance from others, is a key element in this respect, helping states to meet their obligations fully and effectively.

Typically this might involve arranging training, workshops and seminars on particular subjects at national or regional level – all of which make a vital contribution towards widespread and effective implementation of IMO measures. Additionally, the Organization and its technical committees may be able to assist Member States in their ratification processes, as well as playing an important role in promoting uniform application of the existing conventions. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the global marine environment and its resources are being degraded and over-exploited at an ever-increasing rate and scale. Species, critical habitats and the health of the marine ecosystem are all becoming endangered, to the extent where this is adversely affecting people who live in coastal regions and communities worldwide that depend on marine areas for food and livelihood.

As I have explained today, IMO’s work, in both the regulatory arena and terms of technical cooperation and capacity building, makes a significant contribution in the global efforts to combat this situation; and our commitment to continue these efforts remains as strong as ever.

Thank you.