Our blue ocean is full of treasure.
It gives us food, jobs, medicine, transport and entertainment. It produces our oxygen and freshwater and regulates the climate.
It’s an endless source of inspiration and awe.
As much as we depend on it, the ocean remains a mystery. It covers more than two thirds of the Earth’s surface. But only 5% has been explored by humans.
Where we have ventured, we have left our mark. Plastic and chemical pollution, overfishing and climate change are jeopardizing the ocean’s ability to underpin all life on Earth.
If current trends continue, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight. Almost all marine species groups are affected by plastic pollution, with many swallowing it or getting entangled in it.
At the same time, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is depleting fish stocks, leaving small-scale fishers with empty nets.
Global heating is another grave threat. The ocean helps combat the climate crisis by absorbing excess heat. But it can only take so much. Many species are under pressure as the ocean gets hotter and more acidic.
All around the world, volunteers are stepping up to help turn the tide. From cleaning up beach litter, to reducing plastic use and choosing Earth-friendly household products, these good citizens make a big difference.
But they can’t fix the problem on their own.
At the local and national level, we need strong policies and regulations to protect our ocean and environment. And we need global solidarity.
For the first time, UN Member States have agreed to a landmark treaty to protect biodiversity in international waters. These areas cover about half the world’s surface and are outside any country’s jurisdiction.
The new ‘High Seas Treaty’ will advance progress on Sustainable Development Goal 14, ‘life below water’. It’s a big step towards protecting 30% of the ocean, along with 30% of land, by the year 2030, as enshrined in the new Global Biodiversity Framework.
The Global Biodiversity Framework and the High Seas Treaty are great achievements for humanity. But their ultimate success depends on all of us working together to turn ambition into reality.
Our living ocean is one of our most precious natural resources. It makes our own lives possible – and enjoyable. Now it’s up to us to restore the ocean to health, use its resources responsibly and preserve its wonders for generations to come.
Illustrations: Ella Kasperowicz