photo taken by Nina View image

Dipping your toes in the water, or perhaps going for a swim? Looking forward to having a seafood or fish lunch or dinner?

The Oceans and Seas that we love to visit face significant challenges; coastal erosion, rising sea levels, warmer and more acidic waters, marine pollution, overexploitation of fish stocks and decrease of marine biodiversity. Following a week of discussions and events in Lisbon, Portugal, the UN Ocean Conference concluded on Friday, with governments and heads of state agreeing on a new political declaration to Save Our Ocean.

One of the main messages coming out of the conference is that there needs to be more awareness on what has been happening to our Oceans and Seas and the need for transformative change.

Acknowledging that climate change is “one of the greatest challenges of our time”, and the need to “act decisively and urgently to improve the health, productivity, sustainable use and resilience of the ocean and its ecosystems”, top politicians gathered in Lisbon stressed that science-based and innovative actions, along with international cooperation, are essential to provide the necessary solutions.

Do you realise that if our oceans and seas die, so do we?

We are an ocean planet, a blue planet as seen on the iconic photo taken by Bill Anders and the crew of Apollo 8 in 1968. 

The oceans don’t just keep us alive, they provide food, jobs, and income for almost 3 billion people, most of whom live in developing countries.

Voluntary commitments from the conference include:

• The Protecting Our Planet Challenge will invest at least USD $1 billion to support the creation, expansion, and management of marine protected areas by 2030.

• The European Investment Bank will extend an additional EUR 150 million across the Caribbean Region as part of the Clean Oceans Initiative to improve climate resilience, water management and solid waste management.

• Portugal committed to ensure that 100 per cent of the marine area under Portuguese sovereignty or jurisdiction is assessed as being in Good Environmental State and classify 30% of the national marine areas by 2030.

• Kenya is currently developing a national blue economy strategic plan, inclusive and multistakeholder-oriented. Kenya also committed to developing a national action plan on sea-based marine plastic litter.

• India committed to a Coastal Clean Seas Campaign and will work toward a ban on single use plastics.

5 Easy things we can do to help our Oceans and Seas:

1. Only buy sustainable seafood and fish. Poor fishing practices are causing a lot of damage, as consumers we make the ultimate choice of supporting these practices or not

2. Reduce your use of single use plastic. We can’t guarantee what happens to it when we discard it, even when you think you are recycling it. The only way we can be sure it doesn’t end up in our Oceans and Seas is not to use it at all

3. Be aware of what you are throwing away, that could end up in Oceans and Seas. Don’t throw wipes down the toilet, for example, lots of discarded pharmaceuticals get flushed and choose hair and shower products that are natural. Start thinking about what you are using and the effect of that ending up in our waters

4. Be responsible when you go to the beach. Don’t leave litter, disturb the seabed when you are swimming or snorkelling or trample on the dunes. Remember these are fragile environments, treat then with love and care. If you see rubbish, pick it up, it will end up in the Ocean or Sea if you don’t

5. Use your voice. Look for the Ocean and Seas initiatives going on near you and get involved. Make sure your local politicians know that this is important to you and ask them what they are doing to deliver transformative change

The world oceans and seas provide so many benefits, try to keep them in your mind.

To help, here are ten things the ocean and seas do for humans and the planet:

• The air we breathe: The ocean produces over half of the world's oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere.

• Climate regulation: Covering 70 percent of the Earth's surface, the ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns.

• Transportation: Most trade involves some form of marine transportation.

• Recreation: From fishing to boating to kayaking and whale watching, the ocean provides us with many unique activities.

• Economic benefits: Ocean-dependent businesses employ almost three million people.

• Food: The ocean provides more than just seafood; ingredients from the sea are found in surprising foods such as peanut butter and soymilk.

• Medicine: Many medicinal products come from the ocean, including ingredients that help fight cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease.

Now, what are you going to do for them?

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