UN Decade of Ocean Science

From ancient times onwards we observe the oceans/seas have been playing a major role in providing different types of foods (fish etc.) to human beings and also helped to promote trade and commerce.

Earlier through waterways only business was carried out. After the invention of the aeroplane, the situation has changed even then still the importance of sea routes is recognised.

Unfortunately, now-a-days, oceans /seas are misused as too much exploitation of ocean/sea resources has been taking place. Moreover, in many cases, oil accidentally spills into the ocean and thus causes huge problems.

Such spills can harm sea creatures, ruin a day at the beach, and make seafood unsafe to eat. In view of this, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 established inter alia, that those responsible for oil spills can be held responsible to pay for clean-up and restoration.

This process of assessing the impacts of a spill and reaching a settlement to fund restoration projects is called Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA).

The United Nations declared on December 5, 2017 that a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the ‘Ocean Decade’, would be held from 2021 to 2030.

The objective is to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the Ocean’ (en.unesco.org/ocean-decade).

It is pertinent to mention that the first United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development regional consultation was held at The Pacific Community headquarters in Nouméa, New Caledonia, from 23-25 July 2019, gathering almost 100 participants from the South Pacific region.

It was organised in plenary sessions and themed workshops focusing on Decade six main expected societal outcomes: a clean ocean, a healthy and resilient ocean, a predicted ocean, a safe ocean, a sustainably harvested and productive ocean, and a transparent and accessible ocean.

The aim of the meeting was to help prepare for the upcoming Decade, consult its different parties, and engage the regional stakeholders. It was also intended to identify more specific regional scientific goals, but also the sustainable development requirements of the vast Pacific Ocean.

The South Pacific region is the largest ocean space in the world, home to many varied ecosystems, atolls, coral reefs, mangroves, covering almost one-third of the Earth.

Spread over 45 million square km, the Pacific Islands are made of 22 island nations, with combined Exclusive Economic Zones over four times bigger than the entire European continent (en.unesco.org/news/pacific-community-ocean-science-fundamental-sustainable-development).

According to Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, “the ocean covers 71% of the planet’s surface. It feeds us, protects us and absorbs more than 90% of the excess heat generated by global warming.

It is an inestimable source of economic, social and cultural wealth – 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. Yet, according to predictions, tropical coral reefs may disappear by the turn of the century, and by 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Despite the importance of the ocean to human health and well-being, ocean research remains poorly funded: it only receives a tiny fraction – an average of less than 2% of national research budgets”.

Hope the article will benefit the researchers, academicians, and others for further study and research.

(The author, Dr Shankar Chatterjee, is a former Professor & Head, CPME, NIRD & PR)

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