Earth Month: A call to action for a sustainable future. April is Earth Month and, now that we are approaching our 53rd anniversary (which was April 22, Earth Day), what better time to start taking action every day to help protect our Earth and also the ocean? The ocean is a delicate balance of life and death, beauty and danger. As we approach 2023, the state of our oceans remains dangerously fragile, with unprecedented challenges that threaten the very survival of marine life and the well-being of our planet. The scale of the problem is daunting, but the need for urgent action is greater than ever. Preserving the biodiversity, health, and sustainability of the oceans demands our unwavering attention and collective effort. Failure to take decisive action could have catastrophic consequences for the fragile ocean ecosystem, the economy, and the well-being of humanity as a whole.
2023 represents a pivotal year for ocean conservation and protection, requiring bold leadership, innovative solutions, and a global commitment to turn the tide in favor of ocean conservation and protection. The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet, covering more than 70% of the Earth’s surface and harboring a wide variety of marine life. However, human activities such as pollution, overfishing, and climate change have severely affected these ecosystems, putting them at risk of collapse.
In this article, we will examine why 2023 is such a critical year for ocean conservation and explore what steps we can take to help protect these vital ecosystems.
The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development
In 2021, the United Nations launched the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), which aims to bridge the gap between science and policy by promoting research, observations and innovations that advance ocean science. This global initiative aims to support the development of science-based solutions to ensure the sustainable use and conservation of our ocean resources. 2023 marks the halfway point of this decade, making it a crucial year to assess progress made in the first half of the decade and implement necessary adjustments. This year presents an opportunity to ensure that the goals set by the United Nations are met. It is a year to take stock of the scientific advances and new technologies that have been developed, as well as the challenges that remain to be addressed. It is important to recognize the importance of the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development and the role it plays in protecting and conserving our planet’s most precious resource. Through collaboration, innovation and scientific research, we can work to create a sustainable future for our oceans and the planet as a whole.
Did you know?
- The ocean absorbs about 30% of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere and this process is known as ocean acidification, which alters the chemistry of the ocean by lowering its pH levels. The absorption of carbon dioxide by the ocean not only affects marine life, but also causes warming temperatures and changes in ocean currents and weather patterns. By taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint and promoting sustainable practices, we can help mitigate the effects of climate change on our oceans and the planet.
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity
The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a major international treaty that aims to safeguard global biodiversity, including marine biodiversity. The treaty outlines three main objectives: conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.
2023 is also a critical year for the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In 2023, the CBD will hold its 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16), which will focus on marine biodiversity and the conservation of ocean ecosystems. COP 16 will provide an opportunity for countries to assess progress towards achieving the CBD’s objectives and to reinforce commitments to ocean conservation and protection. It will also be a critical time for countries to come together to develop effective strategies and policies to address the challenges facing our oceans and marine life.
Did you know?
- According to the United Nations, more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, and marine fisheries provide direct or indirect employment for more than 200 million people worldwide. However, marine biodiversity is threatened by human activities such as overfishing, pollution, climate change, and habitat destruction. These threats not only damage ocean ecosystems but also impact the livelihoods and well-being of the millions of people who depend on them. Protecting and conserving our oceans and marine life is not only a matter of environmental concern but also a crucial aspect of sustainable development and poverty reduction.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a global agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change. The ocean plays a vital role in regulating our planet’s climate and is also one of the ecosystems most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, increasing ocean temperatures and changes in ocean currents also pose a serious threat to the health of the oceans and the livelihoods of coastal communities around the world.
COP 2023, which will take place in Africa, offers a crucial opportunity for world leaders to take bold and ambitious action to address the impacts of climate change on the oceans. COP 2023 must prioritize the urgent need for collective action to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the ocean. This includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing strategies to adapt to the effects of climate change that are already occurring. Working together, we can safeguard the health of our oceans and ensure a sustainable future for our planet.
Did you know?
- Coral reefs are extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly ocean warming and acidification. When water temperatures rise, coral reefs can undergo a process called bleaching, in which they expel the colorful algae that live inside them, causing them to turn white and eventually die if the stress continues. Some estimates suggest that up to 90% of the world’s coral reefs could be lost by 2050. The loss of coral reefs would have devastating consequences for marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on them for food, tourism and storm protection.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
The current COVID-19 pandemic has made 2023 a critical year for ocean conservation and protection for several reasons. The pandemic has highlighted the need for a more sustainable and resilient approach to economic development and resource management, including ocean resources. The pandemic has led to an increase in single-use plastics, which can end up in the ocean and harm marine life. This highlights the need for better waste management practices and a shift towards a circular economy that reduces plastic waste. The pandemic has led to a decline in tourism and commercial activities in coastal areas, providing a temporary respite for marine ecosystems. However, as restrictions are relaxed, there is a risk of a sudden increase in activity that could damage the ocean. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize sustainable tourism and fishing practices that support ocean conservation and protection.
Did you know?
- Plastic waste is a serious problem for our oceans. They harm marine life, disrupt ecosystems and even enter the human food chain through seafood consumption. Plastic waste can also degrade into microplastics, which can be ingested by even the smallest organisms, causing potential damage throughout the food chain. The problem is particularly acute in areas with high population density and inadequate waste management infrastructure. It is essential that we act to reduce plastic waste and improve waste management practices to protect our oceans. By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight if current trends continue.
Last but not least, to protect and conserve the oceans we need to take certain actions. But first, we need to understand what exactly ocean conservation and protection means and why they are necessary. Ocean protection and conservation refers to efforts to preserve and safeguard ocean ecosystems, habitats, and biodiversity. Protection and conservation measures may include the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs), which are designated areas of the ocean where human activities such as fishing and mining are restricted or prohibited. Other measures may include implementing sustainable fishing practices, reducing pollution and plastic waste, and combating the effects of climate change on the ocean. The goal of protection and conservation efforts is to ensure that the ocean’s resources and biodiversity are maintained for future generations. This requires a collaborative effort between governments, industries, communities, and individuals to prioritize the sustainable use and protection of ocean resources.
The Need for Action
2023 is a critical year for ocean conservation and protection, but it is also an opportunity for action. Governments, businesses and individuals all have a role to play in conserving our oceans and the life they harbor.
Some of the actions that can be taken include:
- Reducing plastic waste by using reusable bags and water bottles
- Supporting sustainable fishing practices and avoiding overfishing.
Did you know?
- Overfishing is a critical problem facing our oceans as many fish stocks decline at an alarming rate. The consequences of overfishing go beyond the depletion of fish stocks; it also affects the entire marine ecosystem and the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on fish for food and income. Overfishing can cause imbalances in the food chain, affecting predators that depend on fish for food and the prey on which fish feed. It can also lead to changes in the marine environment, such as altering the distribution of algae and plankton, which are the basis of the oceanic food chain.
- Reducing carbon emissions through energy-efficient practices and using renewable energy sources
- Supporting organizations that work to protect and conserve marine life and habitats.
Our planet is worthy of celebration every day, but I hope this month will remind us to celebrate its incredible beauty, diversity, and resilience, and to reflect on our collective responsibility to protect it for future generations. 2023 is undoubtedly a critical year for ocean conservation and protection. The UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Paris Agreement converge this year, offering a unique opportunity to move towards a more sustainable future. Every action we take, no matter how small, can make a difference in preserving not only our oceans but our natural world. Let’s commit to making sustainable choices in our daily lives and join together to advocate for policies and practices that promote a healthier planet.
What are you doing in April to celebrate Earth Month?