Hope for the world’s oceans

Hope for the world’s oceans

As World Oceans Day is commemorated on 8 June, global events in March signified greater commitment and action to its theme for 2023, Planet Ocean: Tides are changing.

In a message sent to participants to the 8th Our Ocean Conference in Panama, the first Latin American country to host the Conference, Pope Francis offered three directions to improve humanity’s relationship with the oceans, and which are critical as World Oceans Day is commemorated.

The first direction is to listen to the cry of the poor and of the Earth and to urgently review growth strategies based on waste and unsustainable models of consumption. The second is for humanity to unite to protect and restore marine, coastal, and river ecosystems. And the third is for governments to create effective governance systems to regulate and coordinate activity on the oceans.

“By working in these directions, there will always be hope.”

Urging politicians and business leaders at the conference to embrace an “integral vision of ecology” in line with Laudato Si’, the Pope highlighted the importance of “humility, gratitude, and awe” as we say “Our” ocean, noting that all people depend on the oceans and are rightly considered the “common heritage” of humanity. The oceans are a “gift from the Creator” and must be used fairly and sustainably for the sake of future generations.

He shared the host of threats that the world’s oceans face: pollution, acidification, illegal fishing, as well as the nascent extractive industry on the seabed. The Pope also tied in the migrant tragedies that occur on the high seas and the harsh treatment of seafarers. He called on governments to recognize the “interconnectedness and interdependence between communities and countries” which the oceans embody.

The 8th Our Ocean Conference with the theme “Our Ocean, Our Connection” highlighted the importance of knowledge as the basis of actions and policies to ensure protection of our oceans, responsible management of marine resources, and sustainable future economic growth, concluding with 341 commitments worth nearly US$ 20 billion. Since the first Our Ocean Conference in 2014, participants from over 70 countries have announced more than 1,800 commitments worth more than US$ 108 billion and protected more than five million square miles of ocean.

At around the same time, national governments held UN-sponsored talks in New York where they agreed to a new High Seas Treaty to protect the world’s oceans and codify conservation efforts of ocean areas beyond national jurisdictions. The Treaty establishes global rules to limit environmental impacts and create protected marine areas beyond national jurisdictions which make up 95% of the volume of the world’s oceans, and makes it possible to achieve the goal of protecting 30% of the earth’s surface. The UN is expected to formally adopt the High Seas Treaty in June 2023 and enters into force upon ratification of  60 member States and the work to create protected marine areas can begin.

Sources:

UN – Planet Ocean: tides are changing

UNEP – Our Ocean Conference, 2-3 March 2023

Vatican News – Pope Francis: Oceans are God’s gift for all generations

UN News – UN delegates reach historic agreement on protecting marine biodiversity in international waters

Government Offices of Sweden – Global treaty to protect the ocean

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