UN chief warns oceans are 'under threat as never before'

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the first U.N. conference on oceans today with a warning the seas are "under threat as never before," noting one recent study warns that discarded plastic garbage could outweigh fish by 2050 if nothing is done.

The U.N. chief told presidents, ministers, diplomats and environmental activists from nearly 200 countries that oceans – "the lifeblood of our planet" – are being severely damaged by pollution, garbage, overfishing and the effects of climate change.

The five-day conference, which began on World Environment Day, is the first major event to focus on climate since U.S. President Donald Trump announced Thursday the United States will withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement – a decision criticized by Bolivian President Evo Morales and other speakers today.

Guterres said the aim of the conference is "to turn the tide" and solve the problems that "we created."

He said competing interests over territory and natural resources have blocked progress for too long in cleaning up and restoring to health the world's oceans, which cover two-thirds of the planet.

"We must put aside short-term national gain to prevent long-term global catastrophe," Guterres said. "Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself."

General Assembly President Peter Thomson, a Fijian diplomat, said, "The time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways."

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