By Santo D. Banerjee
NEW YORK (IDN) — “The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods” was the theme for World Oceans Day 2021 as well as a declaration of intentions that launches a decade of challenges to get the Sustainable Development Goal 14, “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”, by 2030.
The importance of the theme of this year’s World Oceans Day celebrated on June 8, is underlined by the fact that the ocean covers over 70% of the planet. It is our life source, supporting humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on earth.
As the UN points out, the ocean produces at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen, it is home to most of the earth’s biodiversity and is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world.
Not to mention, the ocean is key to our economy with an estimated 40 million people being employed by ocean-based industries by 2030. Despite all its benefits, the ocean is now in need of support.
90% of big fish populations are depleted. 50% of coral reefs have been destroyed. We are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished. “To protect and preserve the ocean and all it sustains, we must create a new balance, rooted in a true understanding of the ocean and how humanity relates to it. We must build a connection to the ocean that is inclusive, innovative, and informed by lessons from the past.”
The annual commemoration is a reminder of the major role oceans have in everyday life as “the lungs of our planet” and as a source of food and medicine, noted UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Although this year’s theme focuses on their importance for the cultural and economic survival of communities worldwide, the Secretary-General cited a recent report which confirmed that many of the benefits oceans provide are being undermined by human activity.
World Oceans Day has come as countries continue to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and the ongoing assault on oceans, seas and marine resources, Mr. Guterres said. With more than three billion people worldwide, mainly in developing countries, relying on the ocean for their livelihood, he called for action.
“As we strive to recover from COVID-19, let’s end our war on nature,” Mr. Guterres said. “This will be critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, keeping within reach the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement, and ensuring the health of our oceans for today’s and future generations.”
As part of the World Ocean Day celebrations, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced the selection of an initial series of actions to drive what it calls the “ocean knowledge revolution”.
Led by diverse partners from science, government, civil society and other sectors, they fall under the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development which runs through 2030.
“From restoring the Great Barrier Reef to mapping 100% of the ocean floor in high resolution, these innovative programmes and contributions make up the first set of Ocean Decade Actions that will contribute to helping deliver the ocean we want by 2030”, said Audrey Azoulay, the UNESCO Director-General.
The flagship Ocean Decade Actions were selected from hundreds of applications submitted to the agency’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the UN entity that supports global ocean science and services.
They include initiatives to expand deep-sea research and exploration of the “twilight zone” of the ocean. Little is known about this layer, which extends from 200 to 1,000 metres (roughly 650 to 3,300 feet).
Other actions focus on developing knowledge and solutions to reduce the multiple pressures on marine ecosystems, including climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, as well as measures to improve the sustainable management of fish stocks.
“The hundreds of responses to the Ocean Decade’s first Call for Decade Actions showcase the success of and huge interest around this global movement”, said Vladimir Ryabinin, the IOC Executive Secretary.
“The initial Actions are just the first building blocks of the Decade–there will be many chances to engage.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 09 June 2021]
Image: Coral reef fish swim in French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean. Ocean Image Bank/Jayne Jenkins.
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