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Deputy Minister Ms Barbara Thomson‘s address on the occasion of the Sustainable Ocean Initiative at the High-Level Meeting at 12th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, 16 October 2014


H.E. Mr. Ju-Young Lee, Minister of Oceans and Fisheries, Republic of Korea


South Africa is the world’s third most mega-diverse country, not only from the terrestrial perspective, but in the marine environment as well. It is in South Africa where three of the world’s oceans meet, namely the Indian, the Atlantic and the Southern Ocean. Our EEZ is greater than our country area. Much of this ocean is still relatively unexplored, in terms of both its biodiversity and its economic potential.

In order to address our challenges as a developing country, including poverty and unemployment, the South African Government has a number of bold steps to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. These are set out in our National Development Plan.

An important action recently taken by South Africa has been the implementation of a programme to unlock more fully the economic potential of our ocean and coastal areas. Driven by our President this programme is known as Operation Phakisa. The priority ocean sectors identified include marine transport, offshore oil and gas exploration; aquaculture and marine protection services and ocean governance. Using this approach we plan to double the contribution of the ocean sector to our GDP over the next 15 years. To do this sustainably it is vital that we concurrently conserve our ocean and coastal biodiversity.

To this end we have used the CBD EBSA process as one of the tools to identify priority areas needing protection. Despite having 10% of our inshore environment protected, less than 1% of our offshore ocean environment is under protection. Operation Phakisa will create a network of marine protected areas and move the offshore marine protected area to over 5% by 2018.

It is in this light that we appreciate the contribution made by the Sustainable Oceans Initiative (SOI). It has helped us build capacity as well as bringing in a collaborative approach, regionally and globally. Support such as this and our own programmes, give us real hope that we will be able to meet most of the Aichi Biodiversity targets by 2020.

We thank the Government of Korea, for their commitment, as hosts of COP12, to financially support the Sustainable Oceans Initiative, building on the contributions made by the Governments of Japan and France.