As we mark the World Ocean Day 2023 this week, we should take a moment to consider the work that still needs to be done. From marine pollution and climate change to unsustainable practices and declining populations of endangered species, the challenges we face are immense. In the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS) region, which encompasses Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, these countries are working together to protect and preserve this vital oceanic expanse for future generations.

Marine pollution knows no borders. Plastic debris and oil spills impact the entire ATS region and therefore require a transboundary response. To effectively tackle these challenges, collaborative efforts between multiple stakeholders and governmental bodies are urgently needed.

In the ATS region, a major culprit of plastic pollution in the sea is abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG). This issue requires immediate and concerted efforts to prevent and tackle the problem at its source. In the short term, implementing effective waste management systems and raising awareness about the issue of ALDFG and proper waste disposal are key steps towards reducing and diverting plastic pollution. In the long run, establishing a value-generating circular economy for maritime industries and fisheries activities should be the ultimate goal.

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