Reducing marine debris by 50-90 per cent and a globe circling, high-tech system of monitors are two essential aims among several championed by nine distinguished international experts appointed to help the United Nations reach the goal of a clean ocean by 2030.
The Clean Ocean International Expert Group of the UN Decade for Ocean Science for Sustainable Development will formally present its short list of activities and goals, and a strategy to reach them in a “manifesto” at the outset of a three-day online conference on achieving a clean ocean that will conclude on November 19.
Co-chaired by Angelika Brandt of Germany, a southern ocean and Antarctica biodiversity expert, and Elva Escobar Briones of Mexico, a deep sea biodiversity expert, the group concisely outlines “the challenges and some of the opportunities that the Ocean Decade can provide for a clean ocean.”
The statement charts the most direct route to a clean ocean citing these objectives for 2030: Enlarge understanding of pathways for spread and fate of pollutants, reduce and remove top-priority forms of pollution (e.g. marine debris) by large amounts, as much as 50 to 90 per cent and to prevent recurrence, reduce sources or emission of pollutants (e.g. anthropogenic noise, discarded plastic and harmful chemicals, farming practices adding harmful sediment outflow).
With such a framework agreed and in place, specific objectives can be identified and efforts activated, with targets and timetables similar in scope and character to next spring’s anticipated world agreement to protect 30 per cent of the marine environment by 2030, and the completion of high-resolution mapping of the seabed also by 2030.
The expert group underlined that, “This process should aim to define and attract financial and other support to meet an initial set of goals for 2025, followed by goals for the end of the Ocean Decade in 2030.”
And they set out examples of nearer term objectives for 2025. These include quantify the global harm of marine pollution from all major sources on ecosystems and organisms and on human health; assessment methods need to take into account multiple stressors; and survey the totality of anthropogenic chemicals flowing into the oceans.
“By 2030 we want to achieve measurable improvement in monitoring and clear reduction of emissions and harm through a spectrum of technical and behavioral strategies,” the group says.
The three-day online conference will highlight more than 30 activities in place or in development around the world that can make important contributions by 2030 to a clean ocean.
These include initiatives to: Successfully and consistently monitor marine debris from space as part of an Integrated Global Marine Debris Observing System; operate deep sea observatories in the Atlantic that document and publicize multiple stressors; and observe the vast southern ocean to give early warnings of possible pollution hot spots in this relatively pristine ocean.
The manifesto, which presents the signatories’ views and not official positions of their respective institutions, is also directed at other groups such as the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, the Economist magazine World Ocean Initiative, and the World Ocean Council.
The group plans to share its manifesto with other expert groups, national committees, and with endorsed projects and programmes of the UN Ocean Decade to speed up development of a strong set of Clean Ocean activities.
Lead author Jesse Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University, New York City, says: “We want this decade to transition from increasing to decreasing the environmental problems of the oceans.”