A clean ocean by 2030: a UN panel charts “the most direct path”


Image Credit: Oceanic Image Bank / Liang Fu)

Experts’ Clean Ocean Manifesto Includes Integrated Ocean Debris Observation System

The reduction of marine debris by 50 to 90% and the introduction of a system of high-tech monitors distributed around the world are among the goals defended by a group of international experts appointed to help the UN achieve the goal. a clean ocean by 2030.

The group * presents their short list of activities and goals, along with a strategy for achieving them, in a ‘manifesto’ at the start of a three-day online conference on Achieving a Clean Ocean, which will be held November 17-19 (https: //bit.ly/3EQHRfQ).

The event is co-chaired by Angelika Brandt from Germany, Southern Ocean / Antarctic Biodiversity Expert, and Elva Escobar Briones from Mexico, Deep Sea Biodiversity Expert. The group says it aims to describe “the challenges and some of the opportunities that the Ocean Decade can offer for a clean ocean.”

The declaration claims to chart “the most direct path to a clean ocean” by citing the following goals for 2030:

  • Better understand the propagation routes and the fate of pollutants
  • Reduce and eliminate priority forms of pollution (e.g. marine debris) in large quantities, up to 50% to 90%
  • To avoid recurrence, reduce sources or emissions of pollutants (e.g., anthropogenic noise, discarded plastic and harmful chemicals, agricultural practices adding harmful sediment runoff)
  • Significantly improve the results of control measures (e.g. to reduce mercury levels in tuna, death of marine life, eutrophication)
  • Improve monitoring (often as part of the Global Ocean Observing System [GOOS]) for more precise, accurate, complete and real-time real-time spill tracing and ocean soundscapes monitoring; improve systems to provide early warning of emerging and increasing pollutants
  • Identify and accelerate the development and adoption of technologies to promote a clean ocean. These could range from cleaner and more efficient engines and fuels to new forms of sanitation and waste management; better ways to monitor, track and map marine pollutants and move towards a clean ocean (such as aerial remote sensing, genomics, and hydrophone networks); and better technologies for emergency cleaning
  • Improve national mechanisms (legal, regulatory) for control and prevention, better align financial incentives and increase compliance with international treaties
  • Increase public engagement and understanding through access to information associated with behavioral changes promoting the motto of “reduce, reuse and recycle” and encourage participation in citizen science at events involving the sailing, surfing and other activities dependent on a clean ocean

With such a framework agreed upon and in place, the group says, specific goals can be identified and efforts activated, with targets and timelines similar in scope and in kind to the global deal slated for next spring to protect 30% of the marine environment by 2030, and the completion of high-resolution seabed mapping, also by 2030.

Face mask floating in water
Image credit: The Ocean Agency.

Intermediate targets for 2025
The expert group stressed that “This process should aim to define and attract financial and other support to achieve an initial set of goals for 2025, followed by goals for the end of the Ocean Decade in 2030”.

And they present examples of shorter-term goals for 2025:

  • Quantify the global damage of marine pollution from all major sources on ecosystems and organisms and on human health; assessment methods must take into account several stressors.
  • Examine the totality of anthropogenic chemicals that are released into the oceans.
  • Define a clean ocean, including acceptable pollution levels to set threshold values, and define ecological limits or maximum levels of pollutants and their degradation rates to maintain the proper functioning of ecosystems; this includes understanding the tolerances of species and ecosystems to pollutants.
  • Develop a widely shared vision of a clean ocean.
  • Identify priority geographic challenges such as polar regions and urban coasts.
  • Identify barriers to action hindering scaling up solutions for regional and global impact; quantify opportunities for improvement.
  • Identify key partners, including those who may be left behind, and propose engagement strategies for early career ocean professionals, indigenous peoples and island communities.
  • Develop baseline scenarios for the industrialization of the oceans over the next decade, including tourism, seabed mining, wind farm development, for example, as it relates to a clean ocean.
  • Develop initial estimates of the costs associated with transitions to a clean ocean.
    Guarantee significant financial commitments.

“By 2030, we want to achieve measurable improvement in monitoring and a marked reduction in emissions and damage through a range of technical and behavioral strategies,” the group said.

The three-day online conference from November 17 to 19 will highlight more than 30 activities in place or in development around the world that can make important contributions by 2030 to a clean ocean.

These include initiatives aimed at:

  • Successfully and consistently monitor marine debris from space as part of an integrated global marine debris observation system
  • Operate high seas observatories in the Atlantic that document and publish multiple stressors
  • Observe the vast Southern Ocean to give early warnings of possible pollution hot spots in this relatively pristine ocean
  • Instrument 30% of ocean spaces in coastal cities to report pollution changes, including restoration
  • Identify and significantly reduce persistent organic pollutants globally.

The group plans to share its manifesto with other expert groups, national committees and with approved UN Decade projects and programs to accelerate the development of a strong set of Clean Ocean activities. .

Says lead author Jesse Ausubel, director of the Human Environment Program at Rockefeller University, New York: “We want this decade to go from increasing to decreasing environmental problems in the oceans.

* The full name of the group is: The Clean Ocean International Expert Group of the UN Decade for Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

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