On the occasion of World Oceans Day, Ernesto Jardim, doctor of fisheries science and member of the non-governmental organization Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), sets out five essential courses of action to accelerate the transition already underway. .
The world has made particular progress in understanding the oceans since the UN’s first report on the Global Assessment of the State of the Oceans in 2015. More and more data is being collected and observational studies have multiplied, notably thanks to new technologies. This information allows scientists to see the ocean as a whole and to study it as a set of interconnected networks, thus promoting a more holistic approach.
Paradoxically, the more knowledge we accumulate, the more we become aware of what we do not know and what remains to be explored. In its most recent assessment (2020), the UN also recalls areas in which research is still needed, such as the effects of pollution on the marine environment. And above all, to understand and understand an ecosystem as complex as that of the ocean, the observation is clear: we will not be able to act alone, we will have to collaborate at the global level.
We can only hope that this message will encourage everyone to commit to the United Nations Decade for Ocean Sciences in order to accelerate global cooperation for the sustainable development of this common space that is our Ocean.
Although a third of the world’s fish populations are still overexploited, fisheries management is improving in many parts of the world. Thus, 98% of the currently overexploited fish populations could recover by mid-century if they were managed sustainably. As a researcher, I am delighted to see that scientific assessments of fish populations and effective fisheries management have taken another step forward towards sustainability, and helped fishermen move in the right direction.
This commitment to sustainable fishing should also remind us that without the preservation of the oceans and its biodiversity, millions of communities will no longer be able to feed themselves on the planet. And for good reason, more than 3 billion people in the world depend on fish for their livelihood.
Additional efforts are therefore needed to ensure the sustainability of our oceans. The UN also recalls that support for the agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) is not yet strong enough. However, this system is essential to fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. With only 40% of signatory states, its objective, which is to prevent the landing of fish from IUU fishing, remains in jeopardy. The lack of action on this front demonstrates that states are failing to make the necessary trade-offs to successfully manage the sustainable use of the oceans by humanity.
While overcapacity of fishing vessels is a real issue for the sustainability of marine resources, fishing organizations and governments cannot prevent fishermen from practicing their trade, especially after allowing – and in some cases subsidizing – construction. of these boats. With technological advances that improve their performance, the sustainable management of fisheries is greatly compromised. Too many boats and too many fishermen who depend on fishing for a livelihood … A difficult political equation to which governments are not yet providing sufficient adequate responses.
If the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN have allowed an integrated and therefore more global approach to ocean governance, the work remains huge to manage to take into account all the activities related to the Ocean in management methods. integrated. One and the same goal (SDG 14 on aquatic life) for an area that covers two-thirds of our planet is still clearly insufficient. In its latest report, the United Nations maps the place the ocean occupies on the planet in each of the SDGs to better reflect their interdependencies. One way for the international community to include the ocean more in the issue of safeguarding the environment, by identifying, for example, underwater noise as a form of pollution.
Last but not least, too little attention is paid to the link between science and political action. The level of disconnection between those who provide tangible evidence of environmental degradation and those with the power to act remains a significant drag, both for policymakers and scientists.
Translating scientific findings into policy action – in other words, making available facts and rational evidence that underpin policy decisions – is critical today if a framework is to be created for the sustainable management of ocean ecosystems. There is an urgent need to take into account the role of science in the sustainable development of the oceans and to remove the obstacles that limit the application of scientific results into action in our societies. Decades of investment in ocean research are at stake.
It’s not too late to shake things up. The start of the United Nations Decade for Ocean Science marks a turning point for all who care about the ocean and want to find new and collaborative solutions to make it sustainable. Because, whether we encourage fishermen around the world to adopt sustainable practices for the common good, or whether we allow the productivity and biodiversity of our oceans to be lost forever, it is above all a citizen choice.