President Figueres, who jointly chairs the Global Ocean Commission, introduced its rationale and work to the UN diplomatic community.
"A collective effort is needed to alter the ocean’s current trajectory of decline," said President Figueres.
"What we choose to do now will define us for generations to come."
President Figueres was joined by fellow Co-chair David Miliband, the former UK Foreign Secretary who recently became President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, at a briefing hosted by Costa Rica’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Mr Eduardo Ulibarri.
President Figueres highlighted the current drivers of ocean degradation, including:
• increasing demand for resources
• technological advances allowing exploitation in areas that were previously out of reach
• overfishing and the subsidies that help drive it
• poor enforcement of existing regulations
• climate change and ocean acidification
• marine pollution
• loss of habitat and biodiversity
• deficiencies in international governance and management of the high seas.
As a means to address some of these deficiencies in ocean governance, on the occasion of its second meeting in July, the Global Ocean Commission issued a call for all vessels on the high seas to carry International Maritime Organization (IMO) identification numbers and tracking devices.
Currently, these are mandatory requirements for passenger ships and large merchant vessels, but not other vessels including those engaged in fishing.
Mr Miliband discussed flaws in the overall governance framework for the high seas, the internationally managed portion of the ocean that makes up almost half of the Earth’s surface.
"The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea set a benchmark for ocean governance," he said.
"It has been described as a constitution for the ocean; but as we all know constitutions need to evolve in order to reflect new knowledge, technology and importantly human need."
The Commission is receiving input from all sectors of society as it explores options for its set of recommendations, due to be published in the second quarter of 2014. A survey, which anyone is welcome to complete, is available here.