Steffi Lemke advocates global marine protection at 9th Our Ocean Conference

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke has called for swift ratification of the UN BBNJ Agreement on the occasion of this year’s Our Ocean Conference in Athens.

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke presses for effective implementation of BBNJ Agreement at Our Ocean Conference in Athens

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke has called for swift ratification of the UN BBNJ Agreement on the occasion of this year’s Our Ocean Conference in Athens. On 16 and 17 April 2024, the Our Ocean Conference is bringing together numerous heads of state, heads of government and ministers eager to present specific commitments for the protection of the oceans. This year, Germany has submitted ten individual projects (or "commitments") with funding totalling almost 500 million euros, the bulk of which is derived from the auctioning of licences for offshore wind farms in German marine waters.

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke commented: "For us humans, the ocean is fundamental to life on Earth – but life in the ocean is itself severely threatened. The climate crisis, pollution and over-exploitation are having disastrous impacts on biodiversity, and thus on human life as well. This is why we must better protect our oceans. I will continue to strongly push for the swift implementation of the BBNJ Agreement adopted last year. This will enable us at last to set up effective marine protected areas on the high seas."

This year’s meeting is the first Our Ocean Conference since last year saw the international community agree on a treaty regulating the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). The Our Ocean Conference therefore also serves as a platform to discuss its implementation. The agreement will enter into force once it has been ratified by at least 60 countries. It covers those areas that lie outside national jurisdiction, i.e. around 40 percent of the Earth’s surface. It is in those territories that protected areas can be set up under the BBNJ Agreement, enabling marine wildlife and plants to recover. Germany, which is striving for ratification by mid-2025, will also provide funding to support the treaty’s implementation within the framework of its International Climate Initiative (IKI).

In addition to marine protected areas, the focus of this year’s Our Ocean Conference is also on sustainable use of the oceans, reducing plastic waste and sustainable fishing. The latter is one of the issues Minister Steffi Lemke is expected to address in the official part of the conference.

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke remarked: "In the German Baltic Sea, fishermen used to rely on local cod and herring stocks for their livelihoods. Now, these fish stocks are significantly reduced, and fishing is no longer viable. This proves that if we continue to overfish in our oceans, we will endanger the foundations of our existence. In addition to the 45 percent of marine areas already under protection, Germany will place 10 percent of its marine areas under strict protection, which will include the creation of no-take zones with a total ban on fishing. This is the only way fish stocks can recover to such an extent that fishing will still be possible in the future while benefiting marine nature."

The Environment Minister will also be meeting NGO representatives to discuss the risks of possible future deep-sea mining. Along with a number of other countries, Germany advocates an international precautionary pause in deep-sea mining. This implies that licences for the extraction of mineral resources on the sea floor should be withheld until the possible impact on the marine environment has been scientifically analysed and a regulatory framework set up to ensure deep-sea mining operations can proceed without harm to the environment.

In addition to the minister, the conference is also being attended by Parliamentary State Secretary Bettina Hoffmann and Federal Government Commissioner for the Ocean Sebastian Unger.

In order to implement urgently needed marine nature conservation measures for the preservation and restoration of endangered marine species and habitats, the Federal Government is investing funds derived from the auctioning of licences for offshore wind farms in Germany’s exclusive economic zone. Based on the "marine nature conservation component" envisaged by the Offshore Wind Energy Act, a total of more than 420 million euros has been earmarked as part of the commitments submitted by Germany for this year’s Our Ocean Conference.

Further commitments include key marine nature conservation projects which, for example, aim to analyse the medium and long-term effects of the climate crisis on the North and Baltic Seas or restore natural carbon sinks such as seagrass beds. Germany is also active internationally. For example, it supports efforts to preserve marine megafauna – or the "Blue Five" – in the South-East Pacific Region, for example whales, dolphins, sharks, manta rays and sea turtles.

Marine protection has high priority for the Federal Government. Under the lead responsibility of the Environment Ministry, the Federal Government is currently developing a cross-cutting, binding national marine strategy for the protection and sustainable use of the oceans. It will be presented on the occasion of a national ocean conference to be held in Berlin in the spring of 2025. The Federal Government is also actively participating in key international processes for marine protection, including the third UN Ocean Conference, to be held in Nice in 2025, and the negotiations on an international agreement to combat plastic pollution in the environment and oceans.


The OOC series of conferences was launched in 2014 by then United States Secretary of State John Kerry. Since then, it has taken place almost annually, with changing hosts and an increasing number of attendees. OOC participants include government representatives, representatives of regional and international organisations and collaborations, global business, as well as civil society groups and international NGOs. This year’s conference is attended by delegations from around 115 countries.

16.04.2024 | Press release No. 043/24 | Marine Conservation
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