THE UNITED NATIONS OCEAN CONFERENCE: “SAVE OUR OCEAN”

#1The impact of human activities on the health of oceans and seas, and the urgent need for action to protect this part of our planet, were the focus of discussion during the first ever United Nations Ocean Conference, which took place in New York from June 6 to 9. In his opening remarks at the conference, the UN Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres, appealed to governments and other stakeholders for increased collaboration to protect the oceans. According to Mr. Guterres, “improving the health of our oceans is a test for multilateralism, and we cannot afford to fail.” He urged governments to allocate funds towards pledges for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Mr. Guterres also called for improved data collection and the sharing of best experiences.

The President of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Peter Thomson, also lent his voice to the #2call to protect the oceans. He appealed to participants at the conference in these imparting words, stating; “We are here on behalf of humanity; to restore sustainability, balance, and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean.” Mr. Thomson described as “inexcusable” actions such as dumping the equivalent of one large garbage truck of plastic into the oceans every minute of every day, which is said to be driving fish stocks to the points of collapse, and destroying marine life through acidification and deoxygenation.

The ocean plays an integral role in the health and wellbeing of humans and other species because it generates oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, human activities such as dumping of waste products into the oceans and seas threaten the health of global water sources (and as a result, our health too). The need to protect the ocean has never been more urgent, as we face the unprecedented challenges of climate change.

Below are some basic facts you need to know about the ocean and sea. Courtesy of Sea Change Project (www.seachangeproject.eu)

*The Ocean is Planet Earth’s Life Support System: The Ocean plays a fundamental role in supporting life on Earth by regulating our climate. It does this by storing and transporting huge amounts of heat, water and greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide). By absorbing heat as well as large amounts of carbon dioxide, the ocean lessens the effects of climate change experienced on land. However, this comes at a cost to ocean health and therefore human health. We can reduce the stress we put on the ocean and limit further climate change by decreasing our carbon footprint (a measure of environmental impact in units of carbon dioxide).

 *Seafood and Human Health: From ancient times, fisheries and aquaculture (the farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants) have been an important source of food. These activities also provide economic benefits to millions of people engaged in harvesting, culturing, processing and trading along the world’s seashores and waterways. Today, we are facing the challenge of growing demand for seafood together with declining catches from the world’s marine fisheries. Therefore, well-managed fisheries are essential to continue providing food into the future.

 *Marine Pollution and Human Health: Many of our waste products end up in the sea. This includes visible as well as invisible waste such as chemicals from personal care product and pharmaceuticals that we flush down our toilets and drains. Once in the sea, these pollutants can move through the ocean, endangering marine life through entanglement, ingestion and intoxication.

 * The Ocean – A Treasure Trove for Human Medicine: The Ocean is home to a vast variety of organisms, diverse in their adaptations to the marine environment. Marine organisms produce an abundance of natural products to defend themselves against predators, to locate mates, to communicate and to compete for space and food. Many of these compounds have no terrestrial equivalents and are unique in terms of chemical structure and biological activity. There are 7 marine-derived medicines in clinical use; Trabectedin, Eribulin Mesylate, Cytarabine, Brentuximab, Ziconotide Vidarabine, Omeg-3- acid ethyl esters.                                                                                                                                                                                                  *The Sea and our Physical and Mental Wellbeing: Spending time by the sea has long been associated with health benefits and a sense of wellbeing. Acknowledging the importance of the sea’s influence on our mental and physical health, the Blue Gym concept refers to using the coastal environment specifically to promote health and wellbeing by increasing physical activity, reducing stress and building stronger communities.

 Read more: UN Ocean Conference; http://bit.ly/2lGShXP

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