. It really is very kind of you to be prepared to do that. I also want to say how particularly grateful I am to Justin Mundy, and all my ISU team for the incredible amount of work they put into all these gatherings. I know how difficult it is, when acting in a neutral, convening way, to achieve at the end of the day the kind of consensus that's required on so many of these very difficult issues.
I am, of course, especially grateful to President Figueres, not only for taking the time to join us, but also for such kind words and really astute analysis of the challenges facing our global oceans. Likewise, I am most grateful to John Goodlad for sharing the outcomes of the discussions that have taken place so far. In this regard, Ladies and Gentlemen, I need hardly say how much I appreciate all your efforts, collectively, as well as individually, towards the evident progress that has been made since my I.S.U.’s Marine Programme was launched here at Fishmonger's Hall nearly five years ago now.
It does seem - in some ways - that there are grounds for considerable optimism, although clearly there also still remains much to be done – not least the increasingly urgent situation around the health of the oceans where acidification and plastic pollution are two examples of the challenges that will have ever more serious impacts on the seafood community. But they are not being given enough attention, along with the issue of perverse subsidy regimes.
One such marker of success, however, is that of The Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted last year and the fact that they include an agreement to "conserve and sustainably use the oceans… for sustainable development."
Then there is the ratification of the Port State Measures Agreement. I know many of you in the room have worked long and hard to reach this historic agreement, which will, I very much hope, lead to a greater and more significant curtailing of illegal fishing. These, amongst others, are most certainly not insignificant milestones to reach...
What I believe to be most important, however, is the level of practical progress that has been made. That is why it is so heartening to hear about fish stocks around the world that are showing real signs of recovery, in the process proving that we are indeed capable of turning the tide of historic decline. One example that I feel illustrates the art of the possible if we really set our minds to it, is that of the iconic Grand Banks cod. Whilst it may still be a bit premature, the fact that this once tragically decimated fishery is showing signs of recovery, to my mind, is truly encouraging. I am a firm believer that the more we are able to share evidence of actual positive change, then the more likely it will be that others will adopt and spread good practice.
This, and many other examples illustrate how even seriously overexploited fish stocks can recover and, if managed sustainably, provide more food, enhance job security and improve the resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems.
In laying the foundations for continued progress, however, it seems to me that, at the same time as celebrating success, we need to embrace the self-evident reality of a world that is subject to rapid and in some cases volatile change where, despite our best predictions, risks and uncertainties abound.
We face an unprecedented set of interconnected challenges – a global rise in population growth, as you've heard from John Goodlad, and in consumption; rapid urbanization; climate change; natural capital depletion and social, economic and energy insecurity. All of which are already having major implications for ocean health and the future of our global sustainable fishing industry and have all the symptoms of a perfect storm.
For this reason, it is vital to grasp the opportunity to be proactive, rather than merely reactive. It is only too evident that ocean health is declining rapidly, whether due to warming temperatures, acidifying and more polluted waters or habitat destruction. Given what we know about the implications of these issues for fisheries, as has been reflected in your discussions today, it seems to me utterly essential that fisheries managers, scientists and policy-makers around the world work even more closely together to understand and plan for the future.
Equally, of course, it is important to remember that sustainability is not only linked with fish stocks but also with the conditions experienced by people working in the fishing industry and aboard fishing boats. You will all, ladies and gentlemen, have been as shocked as I have been to learn of the human rights and labour abuses suffered by many workers in the fishing industry. It seems to me that while workforces are being mistreated, complete sustainability will still have evaded the industry. So shining a light into these dark corners of the fishing industry could not be more important.
Now I know that significant questions remain around how best to secure the ever-dwindling financial resources required to quicken the pace to reach this goal, so I was very pleased to hear a mention of your continued commitment to this challenge. My I.S.U. has devoted considerable effort towards facilitating what might be called 'blue' financing and is now working to advance and define the ‘blue economy’ agenda. It remains committed to making further progress in this area, so as to ensure that sustainable fishing, within a healthy and resilient ecosystem, can be increasingly recognized as a good, long-term investment proposition and a critical part of a sustainable blue economy.
Now I know, Ladies and Gentlemen, that the next 18 months see much activity for the oceans with Secretary Kerry's "Our Ocean" meeting, C.O.P.22 in Marrakesh, The Economist's World Ocean Summit and the High-Level U.N. Conference to Support the Implementation of S.D.G. 14 – that's just to name but a few! So I can only urge you, if I may, to use these moments, and indeed the myriad of other opportunities, to address, comprehensively, and in partnership, the challenges and solutions that you have identified.
With that thought in mind, may I just express my fervent hope that what has been discussed here today is not an end but, rather, a reinvigoration of your efforts and a stimulus for further collaboration and action? And that the future challenges you have identified will be met with the same energy, innovation and determination that you all have most ably demonstrated in the past – to the point where my grandchildren and yours might become used to using the phrase ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea’ as more than a common figure of speech...?
Thank you ladies and gentlemen.