Thursday, June 20, 2024
 
 

World Oceans Day calls for action to protect coastal communities and marine ecosystems

A new virtual exhibit on the United Nations website called “Planet Ocean” features some of the winning images from last year’s Photo Competition for UN World Oceans Day.

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UN World Oceans Day, which is officially on June 8, was celebrated on June 7 at UN Headquarters in New York, focusing on protecting marine life worldwide. Ocean ecosystems form a huge active carbon sink and play a critical role in the global carbon cycle and climate.

“Climate change is triggering rising seas and threatening the very existence of small island developing states and coastal populations,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement marking the World Oceans Day, adding that the ocean sustains life on Earth and the problems are essentially man-made.

At a press release by UN News, Guterres also mentioned that ocean acidification is destroying coral reefs, with sea temperatures reaching record levels leading to extreme weather events. Overfishing and other factors are contributing to the destruction of the world’s marine ecosystems.

The President of the General Assembly, Dennis Francis, who attended the event said, “There is so much still to learn about oceans – and, importantly, to reverse the damage being caused to our precious lifeline resource.”

Francis said that the ocean is our strongest ally against climate change and therefore “it is our joint responsibility to course correct – and recommit to sustainably manage the ocean’s precious resources – so as to ensure their availability inter-generationally.”

The Secretary-General and General Assembly President said they are expecting reflections on and actions toward ways to restore and protect our oceans as the Summit of the Future in September 2024 and next year’s UN Oceans Conference approach.

Speakers at UN Headquarters on June 7 included marine biologist and oceanographer Sylvia Earle, who said finding ways to share the importance of protecting our ocean with the world can lead to vital action to also preserve coastal wildlife.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement about World Ocean Day, that the United States reaffirmed its dedication to safeguarding the ocean through concrete actions and international cooperation. “We must seek ambitious and innovative solutions now if we are to tackle the many challenges facing coastal communities and marine ecosystems,” he said in the statement released on June 7.

He noted that the U.S. is working at home and abroad to advance marine protected areas and reach the global 30×30 goal to conserve or protect 30 percent of the ocean by 2030.  “Through the Ocean Conservation Pledge, we encourage countries to achieve 30×30 in their own waters.  With the new High Seas Treaty, countries will have a way to work together to establish marine protected areas in places beyond national jurisdiction – a critical part of our collective efforts to safeguard the health and resilience of our ocean,” Blinken explained.

“Recognizing the impacts of climate change on our ocean, including sea level rise, ocean warming, and acidification, we are taking decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support ocean-based climate solutions,” the U.S. Secretary of State said.

His statement declared that the U.S. is supporting initiatives to enhance the resilience of coastal communities and marine ecosystems through U.S. President Joe Biden’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience and collaborating with island and coastal communities to implement adaptation measures like early warning systems.

We are actively working to tackle the challenge of plastic pollution in the marine environment and are promoting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture – central to food security and economic development around the world – while working to combat the challenge of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” Blinken said. “We are also putting the ocean at the center of our Atlantic diplomacy with the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation, collaborating with 38 coastal countries to promote and support sustainable blue economies, marine conservation, and scientific capacity building and exchange,” he added.

“We call on all countries, organizations, and individuals to join us in taking bold actions to protect our ocean.  Together, we can ensure a sustainable future for our planet, safeguard marine biodiversity, and secure the livelihoods of communities that depend on a healthy ocean,” Blinken said.

At the ninth Our Ocean Conference (OOC) in Greece, the U.S. announced more than USD 508 million to protect our ocean by advancing marine protected areas, maritime security, the sustainable blue economy and sustainable fisheries, supporting ocean solutions to the climate crisis, and combating marine pollution.

State of the Ocean Report

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a State of the Ocean report earlier in the week pushing policymakers to think about “the ocean we need for the future we want.” The report detailed threats to the ocean and trends that could help identify drivers of change, the UN said.

It warned that the rate of ocean warming has doubled in 20 years and that coastal species are suffocating due to decreased oxygen levels in the ocean, among other things.

One of its conclusions is that “ocean literacy practice and research is a strategic ally to optimize resources, accelerate behavioral change and improve the implementation of ocean conservation programs and sustainability practices.”

 

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