UN World Oceans Day Highlights Urgent Need for Marine Protection

7 June 2024 – Climate and Environment

UN World Oceans Day was celebrated on Friday at the UN Headquarters in New York, focusing on “opening minds, igniting senses, and inspiring possibilities” to safeguard marine life globally. The event featured a compelling video themed “awaken new depths,” which underscored the urgent need for immediate ocean protection and cautioned against complacency.

In a statement marking the day, which officially falls on Saturday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the crucial role the ocean plays in sustaining life on Earth, highlighting that the problems it faces are primarily man-made. Guterres pointed out that climate change is causing sea levels to rise, posing an existential threat to small island developing states and coastal populations. He also noted that ocean acidification is destroying coral reefs, and record-high sea temperatures are leading to extreme weather events. Additionally, overfishing and other harmful practices are contributing to the degradation of marine ecosystems.

President of the General Assembly, Dennis Francis, echoed these concerns, stressing the need to learn more about the oceans and to reverse the damage being inflicted on this vital resource. Francis remarked that the ocean is humanity’s strongest ally against climate change and emphasized the collective responsibility to manage ocean resources sustainably to ensure their availability for future generations.

Both Guterres and Francis are looking forward to reflections and actions to restore and protect the oceans as the Summit of the Future in September 2024 and next year’s UN Oceans Conference approach.

Earlier in the week, UNESCO released a State of the Ocean report, urging policymakers to consider “the ocean we need for the future we want.” The report highlighted threats such as the doubling rate of ocean warming over the past 20 years and the decreasing oxygen levels suffocating coastal species. It concluded that ocean literacy is a strategic ally in optimizing resources, accelerating behavioral change, and enhancing the implementation of conservation programs and sustainability practices.

Marine biologist and oceanographer Sylvia Earle, one of the speakers at the event, emphasized the importance of sharing the significance of ocean protection to drive crucial actions for preserving coastal wildlife. Guterres called on governments, businesses, investors, scientists, and communities to unite in defense of the ocean, while Francis urged a renewed commitment to ocean action, capacity building in small island developing states and other developing countries, and innovative financing solutions to enhance resilience.

For more detailed information, you can visit the UN News website