Individual Action, Key to Ocean Recovery — Global Problems

According to the UN Environment Program (UNEP), the amount of marine litter and plastic waste is increasing rapidly. And without meaningful action, plastic emissions in aquatic ecosystems will nearly triple by 2040.

After the high-level plenary, a panel of experts met to discuss the problem of marine pollution, focusing on finding solutions.

Urgency of pollution crisis

Pollution crosses different sectors and is strongly linked to the other planetary crises of climate change and loss of biodiversity. Fighting marine pollution is a global challenge that requires a global approach to reduce it, experts note.

“Marine pollution, including discharges and discharges from ships and the presence of abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear, remains a concern, with plastics and microplastics from numerous sources, untreated sewage and nutrient run-off still entering the oceans” , said a statement from the organizers of the event.

Janis Searles Jones, Chief Executive Officer of the Ocean Conservancy, in Portland, Oregon, stressed in Lisbon that “life underwater is essential to life above water”, underlining the urgency of reducing single-use plastics and speeding up action.

‘Scream loud’: ban single-use plastic

On the sidelines of the conference, the United Nations Educational and Scientific Agency (UNESCO) has named giant wave surfer and two-time Guinness World Record holder, Maya Gabeira, the Ocean and Youth Champion.

Speaking at an event in the SDG Media Zone – “Strengthening Youth for the Ocean We Need” – the Brazilian athlete shared that even in her most remote surf spot – which she can only reach after 55 hours of travel – she finds plastic around her. when she catches the waves.

“It’s really sad when you’re surfing and the tide turns and all that plastic gets in you, and you try to make room, or put whatever you can in your pockets to go to a recycling bin, but we know that that’s not even a dent, and that’s not the solution.”

Speaking with UN NewsMs Gabeira reiterated the importance of educating herself and learning ways to create less of a footprint – not only by using less plastic, but also by using her platform to shout as loud as possible, to drive change, adding that each one of us can make all the difference.

At the event, UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay reiterated the commitment to integrate ocean education into the national curricula of all member states by 2025, underlining the importance of ocean literacy.

Changes in consumption patterns needed

According to the most recent data from UNEP, despite current initiatives and efforts, the amount of plastic in the ocean is now estimated at 75-199 million tons.

Population growth, changes in consumption patterns and other types of behaviour, and increased market accessibility lead to increased waste generation, while resources and technical capacity for sound waste management are limited in some countries that decide they have more urgent needs for public spending.

All of these pollution challenges require national and regional collaboration and knowledge sharing between different stakeholders, experts warned.

For fashion designer and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Oskar Metsavaht, fashion is also a way to change attitudes and behavior, just like any other art form, such as film and music, he told UN News.

Marine plastic waste has impacted more than 600 marine species.

© Ocean Image Bank/Vincent Knee

Marine plastic waste has impacted more than 600 marine species.

Youth is essential

A major concern among environmentalists is what happens during the degradation of plastics in the ocean, mainly in the form of microplastics – small pieces of plastic less than 5 mm in diameter – and chemical additives, which are known to be toxic and dangerous for human and wildlife health, as well as ecosystems.

“Youth [needs] not only to question the system, but also to change their consumption behavior and use nature, conservation and sustainable development, oceans and forests as a source of inspiration,” added the creator of the lifestyle brand Osklen.

“New fabrics, new materials and new technologies need to be implemented in a sustainable way – we still need to find a solution to avoid the microplastics in fashion,” concluded Mr Metsavaht.

One of the expected outcomes of the conference and of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is to identify science-based and innovative actions to overcome the challenges in achieving SDG Goal 14, including preventing, reducing and eliminating of plastic litter at sea.