A healthy ocean requires robust global knowledge of ocean science, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has said, marking World Oceans Day on 8 June with a call to mobilize and harness the best scientific knowledge to protect our planet’s vital oceans.

 

“We cannot manage what we cannot measure, and no single country is able to measure the myriad changes taking place in the ocean. From Fiji to Sweden, from Namibia to the Arctic, all Governments and partners must share knowledge to craft common science-based policies,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in her message commemorating the Day.

Oceans cover about two-thirds of the surface of the Earth and are the very foundations of life. They generate most of the oxygen we breathe, absorb a large share of carbon dioxide emissions, provide food and nutrients and regulate climate. They are important economically for countries that rely on tourism, fishing and other marine resources for income and serve as the backbone of international trade.

Unfortunately, human pressures, including overexploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing, as well as unsustainable aquaculture practices, marine pollution, habitat destruction, alien species, climate change and ocean acidification are taking a significant toll on the world’s oceans and seas. This year, World Oceans Day is being celebrated alongside the first-ever The Ocean Conference at UN Headquarters in New York. The conference aims to strengthen commitments to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 14 – to conserve and viably use the ocean.

As the need for sustainable utilization of marine resources continues to rise, sharing of information will play a critical role in informing people on the benefits of oceans. The Ocean Atlas 2017 provides a crucial starting point for collating information on the threats and possible solutions for the problems that oceans, seas and marine resources face. It has facts and figures on threats to marine ecosystems.

Among key issues discussed in the Atlas are the eutrophication of the ocean waters due to fertilizer use in farmlands along rivers that drain to the oceans, plastics pollution, climate change, over-exploitation of marine resources and deep sea mining. According to the document, 80 per cent of plastic waste ends up in the seas, mostly through rivers.

Kenya made a positive move in an effort to tackle plastic pollution when it recently announced a ban on the manufacture and use of plastic bags that litter much of the country. The ban is due to take effort on 28 August. If successful the measure could go a long way in reducing the amount of plastics that up in the Indian Ocean through Kenyan rivers.

Source: UN News Centre with additional reporting by Charles Kivasu/EAWLS

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