The fourth meeting of the Parties to ACCOBAMS opened today in Monaco and, whilst we will not be providing a blow by blow report from this important meeting, in order to provide something of the flavour of what is happening here is the opening speech from Ana Strbenac the Croatian delegate who made this speech in her capacity as the retiring Chair of this ACCOBAMS convention (please watch the news section of the web for the conclusions of this meeting at the end of the week):
Your Highness, Your Excellency, distinguished delegates, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome you here in Monaco, where the ACCOBAMS Agreement, concluded under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), made its first steps.
Your Highness, we are particulalry honoured with your presence today. Let me use this opportunity to extend a gratitude to the Principality of Monaco and Yourself as well as the Agreements Secretariat for invaluable support and contribution to functioning of the Agreement.
But why do we conserve cetaceans? Cetaceans are an important element of biodiversity, playing a significant role in functioning of marine ecosystems. But to us humans, these charistmatic animals also represent cultural and aesthetic value. At the same time, cetaceans are under significant pressure of human impacts; ranging from habitat degradation, pollution and overfishing, to noise, incidental take and climate change.
Let me remind you that when joining the ACCOBAMS Agreement, countries took te responsibility to make all necessary efforts to reach one simple goal: to maintain cetaceans in our seas. However, the reality is not that simple. At global level, biodiversity has decreased for 30% in last 4 decades. Only 3 years ago, we witnessed extinction of baiji river dolphin. Altogether 12 species in the ACCOBAMS area are enlisted in the IUCN Red List with 8 of them on the verge of extinction. And yet, there are significant gaps in our knowledge. Presence and abundance of cetaceans in many areas is unknown. For example, only yestarday we did not have any idea about cetaceans in the Adriatic Sea. But now, thanks to the joint efforts of Italy, Croatia and other Adriatic countries, we realized that the Adriatic Sea harbours such a variety and abundance of cetaceans.
From this example, it is clear cetaceans, unlike humans, do not recognize state borders and that in order to preserve them, we should work together. And that is the spirit of the ACCOBAMS Agreement. There are many obstacles on the way: insufficient human and financial capacities, lack of cooperation between sectors and lack of financial support in general. Still, even in these complex circumstances, we can make a difference. The ACCOBAMS Agreement represents appropriate framework for all our efforts, bringing together both governments of particular countries and non-governmental organisaitons.
Viewing the substantial work done so far within the Agreement, and activities planned for the future, I believe we are on the right way to preserve cetacean populations for the benefit of present and future generations.