The recent UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon focused on solutions to conserve and sustainably manage the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development — the heart of SDG14 - life below water.
During the conference, the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) came together to co-host an official side event showcasing Pacific solutions to the global ocean crisis.
A rundown of the side event is available here.
During this side event I urged the global community to wake up. Wake up to the urgency of action on ocean health, wake up to the urgency of funding SDG 14, wake up to the fact that Pacific science (and scientists) and traditional knowledge can be leaders in the urgent race to save the ocean.
In waking up we need to recognise that ocean health is inextricably intertwined with human health and existence and while the millions of words spoken at UNOC matter, what matters most is investment in science - and specifically investment in Pacific-based and Pacific-focused Ocean science.
At the conference the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thomson, mentioned repeatedly that Sustainable Development Goal 14, which only exists because of intense advocacy from Pacific Island nations, is the least funded of all Sustainable Development Goals.
But did you know that less than 1% of the already insufficient funding comes to the Pacific region?
This urgently needs to change.
The Pacific region is home to world class science and scientists. The ocean-going people of the Pacific have been stewards of the ocean for millennia and were among our planet’s first ocean scientists. We need to invest in ways to acknowledge and utilise the traditional knowledge that been built up over that vast time scale to help enrich today’s science and inform decision-making.
Ocean science can be a driver of development. A healthy ocean is the world's greatest nature-based solution to climate change - given the role that the ocean plays in climate regulation - and can be a key contributor to solutions to many other sustainable development challenges including food security, poverty eradication and the creation of sustainable livelihoods.
Investing in ocean health is good for us all.
And ocean health isn't just a question of the health of the ecosystems, it's also a question of the health of the spiritual and cultural well-being of Pacific Island peoples and all those who feel a visceral connection to the sea. In maintaining and restoring the health of the ocean, in stemming the tide of coral bleaching and marine biodiversity loss, in monitoring ocean acidification, in protecting ocean ecosystems and the species that call them home, we can increase the well-being of the people whose cultural paradigm and identity is so intimately linked to the ocean.
There is a real opportunity now to harness the energy from the United Nations Ocean Conference to build a movement for ocean justice in the same way the Pacific has built a movement for global action on the impacts of climate change.
Ocean health matters, investment in ocean science matters, the intimate relationship Pacific people have with the ocean matters. It really is time to wake up and to turn the strategy, ambition and solutions presented in Lisbon into tangible ocean action. for all our sakes.