Jakarta. Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan was named vice president of the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York on Monday (05/06), where an Indonesian delegation, including Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti, is in attendance at UN headquarters from June 5-9.
As vice president of the conference, Luhut will represent the interests of Asia-Pacific countries and will lead several dialogue sessions to promote Indonesia's commitment to sea conservation and to combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
"Plastic waste in our oceans is a slow motion catastrophe waiting to happen," Luhut warned, according to a statement released by the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Ministry.
Both Luhut and Susi are expected to speak on Indonesia's strong policies towards fighting illegal fishing.
"Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a crime that threatens the sustainability of marine resources. Therefore, international cooperation is key in fighting it," Luhut said.
National Sea Policy
As part of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's pledge to revive the country's maritime sector, several government ministries have adopted proactive policies to restore waters and revive fishing industries across the archipelago.
Indonesia's National Sea Policy, enacted in March this year through a presidential regulation, has served as a guiding framework for government institutions as they work to combat illegal fishing and ocean pollution.
During a speech on marine pollution at the conference, Luhut cited previous partnership studies with the World Bank and the Danish government, as well as a separate study with the United States, that have uncovered a significant rise in plastic waste in seas around Indonesia.
According to those studies, nearly two-thirds of all plastic bottles found in national waters originate from South Asia.
"The most effective step to address this issue to enact aggressive policy measures to reduce waste production at [...] the local, provincial, national and international levels," Luhut said.
The minister added that plastic waste in the world's oceans are mostly caused by leakages from solid waste management on land, while personal waste and irresponsible coastal activity play a smaller role.
The conference, hosted by the governments of Fiji and Sweden, aims to explore and discuss ways to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 14, which seeks to conserve and sustain the world's oceans, seas and marine resources.
Recommendations made during the conference are expected to be organized into a UN "Call for Action," which will be formally adopted on Friday.
So far, participating countries have made up to 700 voluntary commitments, or planned policy initiatives, to improve ocean health. That number is expected to grow even more by the conference's conclusion.
Some of the planned initiatives include the implementation of long-term, robust strategies to reduce the use of plastic and microplastic products and mitigate harmful impacts on the world's waters due to climate change.
"The health of our oceans and seas require us to put aside short-term national gain, to avoid long-term global catastrophe [...] Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself," UN secretary-general António Guetters said.