The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind.
Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation.
Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future. However, at the current time, there is a continuous deterioration of coastal waters owing to pollution and ocean acidification is having an adversarial effect on the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity. This is also negatively impacting small scale fisheries.
Marine protected areas need to be effectively managed and well-resourced and regulations need to be put in place to reduce overfishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification. A substantial increase in ocean protection could have triple benefits, by protecting biodiversity, boosting the yield of fisheries and securing marine carbon stocks that are at risk from human activities.
The massive scale at which we burn fossil fuels, creating the greenhouse gases that blanket our atmosphere, are commensurately changing the composition of the Ocean. The Ocean has absorbed 90 per cent of the heat from global temperature rises, so it should not be a surprise that immense changes are underway within it and that we now witness such phenomena as the death of coral reefs. It is tragic to contemplate that if present global warming trends continue, the 21st Century will witness widespread saltwater engulfment of low-lying land, of atolls, and river deltas, that have for thousands of years been home to biodiversity, food production and unique manifestations of human culture.
Let’s end our war on nature. This will be critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, keeping within reach the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement, and ensuring the health of our oceans for today’s and future generations.
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.