Isabelle Autissier's point of view: why is it urgent to protect the oceans?

Turtle in the ocean

© Jeremy Bishop

Year after year, more and more voices are raised in the public debate to make us aware of the role that the oceans play in our societies, and of the threats to the marine environment. SUEZ has opened the pages of open_resource magazine to two personalities, known for a long time for their involvement in ocean’s defence: Isabelle Autissier, seafarer, author and the current President of WWF France, and Dan Laffoley, scientist and Marine Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas.

© WWF Martin Leers 2009

We need to understand the urgency of taking action to save our oceans!

The ocean is an essential climatic machine for the planet. It absorbs 30% of greenhouse gases and produces 50% of our oxygen. Moreover, it plays a crucial role in food security, because it feeds more than one billion human beings, as the WWF pointed out in “Reviving the ocean economy: the case for action”.

What can we do?

Solutions exist, and we know what they are. The oceans are a renewable resource capable of meeting the needs of every future generation, if the pressures they are currently exposed to are effectively attenuated. If we remain within the limits, the oceans will contribute to food security, to the means of subsistence of populations, to the economies and to our natural systems.

First, we must take action against the threats. Major themes demanding action include the fight against over-fishing, illegal fishing (20% to 30% of catches), pollution due to deforestation, chemical agriculture and untreated wastewater, and, of course, fighting against climate change. On this latter point, the COP21 sent out a positive signal, by adopting the target of limiting the long-term rise in the average global temperature to 2°C, plus a reference to a preferable limit of 1.5°C. The Paris agreement contains the strong governmental actions in terms of mitigation, adaptation and funding. But action is needed urgently, without waiting for a possible increase in state commitments in 2020 or 2025. Local authorities, citizens, the economic world, local populations… Everyone can get involved.

It is also necessary to offer the oceans zones of resilience so that they can fight off these threats and protect the life they host. This is the goal of the Marine Protected Areas, which are zones rich with life that are capable of reseeding devastated zones, provided that there is enough of them. Currently, they only account for 3.4% of the maritime surface of the world. The WWF has called for this figure to be increased to 10% by 2020 and to 30% by 2030, on all the world’s oceans. In the report “Marine Protected Areas Smart Investments in Ocean Health”, published in June 2015, we showed how every dollar invested in the creation of Marine Protected Areas can triple the profits that are made locally in terms of the environment, employment, fishing, food security and the protection of the coasts against erosion.

It is time to be aware of the urgency! We must act! The oceans were the main source of life, we need to make sure that they do not become the first place to see its decline.

Discover the point of view of Dan Laffoley, leading global expert on ocean conservation.

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