The relevance of oceans and seas on our lives has been long recognised. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, coastlines and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all provided and regulated by the sea. Oceans and seas are a source of food, medicines and energy that can be tapped to secure a sustainable future for all, especially for those left behind. Throughout history, they have been a vital canal for trade and transportation.
Oceans and seas constitute an instrumental source of living and affect peoples’ lives in a multitude of ways. Scientific research has also proven that they protect the earth from the adverse effects of global warming and the irreversible impact of climate change.
Unfortunately, global warming has caused the average temperature of the global ocean to increase, which contributed to the sea level rising. The latter is also known to be caused by the discharge of additional water into the oceans due to the melt of terrestrial ice and snow, a process that is also accelerated by rising surface temperatures. As a result of these two global warming factors, the global average sea level has been constantly rising to an alarming level.
The hundreds of tonnes of plastic that are being tossed in the sea, in addition to overfishing, mining and oil spills that create toxic effluent in the water, not to mention the accumulation of persistent organic chemicals, have all been causing the sharp deterioration of marine environment. Concurrently, ocean acidification and coastal water deterioration due to eutrophication and marine pollution have been also destabilising the functioning of marine ecosystems and severely damaging oceans and seas and what lies beneath.
Careful management of this indispensable global resource is thus essential if we are to use it to improve our lives from different angles. But to do so, we need first to protect the oceans and seas from the stream of violations that are being committed against it and its marine creatures.
“Conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources” is one of the top priorities of the United Nations to achieve a prosperous, safe and resilient world. It is featured in a standalone goal, SDG-14, of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that constitute a powerful articulation of what nations want on their path towards sustained, inclusive and environmentally friendly development.
As it is globally recognised, oceans contain 97 per cent of the Earth’s water and over 200,000 marine species, upon which more than 3 billion people depend and benefit from its marine and coastal resources for their livelihoods.
The benefits of oceans and seas are countless and its positive effects outpace economic and social outcomes. Apart from serving as the world’s largest source of food, oceans and seas help regulate the atmosphere by absorbing 30 per cent of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities. According to UN reports, oceans and marine resources also provide a natural resource of medicines, and employ over 200 million people whether directly through fishing-related practices or indirectly through other industrial and recreational activities.
For the UN 2018 SDGs Report, conserving the oceans require effective strategies and proper management to combat the adverse effects of human-induced climate change and the deterioration of marine resources. These include reducing or abolishing fishing subsidies that contribute to the rapid depletion of many fish species, galvanising efforts to save and restore global fisheries and fighting coastal eutrophication and plastic pollution.
Concomitantly, adopting a sustainable ocean-oriented economy has been recently hailed as an enabling factor for a healthy, productive and sustainable future. Ocean-based industries, such as fisheries, aquaculture, energy production and shipping operating in a healthy marine environment, can provide sustainable solutions to important challenges facing the world. But how can one contribute to healthier and sustainable oceans and seas?
Restoring the oceans may not seem an easy task but small actions can lead to substantial differences if adopted steadily and collectively. These may include volunteering on a regular basis to clean up a portion of the beach from litter and plastics, abstaining from buying items made from marine resources and supporting organisations that preserve and protect the oceans and seas. Other simple individual actions may also include limiting the use of plastic products that often end up in the sea, respecting laws that limit overfishing and marine pollution and adopting recreational activities that do not exploit the sea.
Equally important, is the use of social media platforms to share information that raise environmental awareness. We can even take our actions a step further and join the recently launched UN Climate Action Campaign “ActNow.bot” (www.actnow.bot). The latter consists of an interactive tool that spurs for everyday actions and track the number of actions that people are taking individually or collectively towards advancing the climate agenda through daily simple actions.
We, as human beings, must spare no effort to advance SDG-14 in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans and seas. Let us prioritise the oceans as a public good, support it with long-standing cooperation and partnerships and recognise that preserving the oceans and halting the degradation of the world’s marine ecosystems will undoubtedly enable this indispensable resource to provide more food, more clean energy, more medicines and even more jobs. Let us be the change-maker for a world we all want. #TakeAStep to help the world and its oceans survive!
The writer is national information officer at the UN Information Centre in Beirut. She contributed this article to The Jordan Times