How Science And Politics Are Tackling The Fight For Marine Life
The UN's Plan:
In 1992, the World's leaders gathered from more than 178 countries. Each nation sent representatives to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They unpacked their briefcases and set aside political and cultural differences. The Nations put forward their plans and discussed the future of Earth. The threat of climate change was impending.
Agenda 21 had been set forth. The Commission on Sustainable Development was set up to enforce new protections for the environment, including humanity's future.
It was only two decades later that the UN would create its new 2030 vision, a new shining deal, that had united the world's interests like never before. It was the first of its kind, in 2015 it had shown to be the world's first major step towards a collective climate consciousness. Despite its ambitious and unified start, the 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) laid out were a hard ask for a world, rife with complex relations, and their own financial and political interests. Regardless, this show of solidarity was needed to progress the global initiative of a healthier world.
Among the 17 goals: such as increased quality of life and a responsible approach to resource consumption- including the aspiration to preserve and improve the seas. The development goal (number 14) was named "Life Below Water" and sought to tackle decreased biodiversity in sea life and the many issues associated with plastic and gas pollution. This development goal is the one we will be focusing on.
To read more about the UN's sustainable development goals, click here.
The Price of Pollution
When we think about the problems our oceans face, a primary concern is plastic pollution. Many of our previous consumer habits, such as the use of plastic straws, have been switched to a sustainable alternative in an effort to be climate conscious. Whether or not individual consumption habits have a significant effect is to be debated. According to Oceanliteracy.unesco.org.uk ,
This could show that through community and global collaboration, we could all collectively reduce harmful waste to the environment. The use of single-use plastic is harmful as it cannot be recycled, so it usually gets put in a landfill, where it slowly turns into microplastics. Microplastics are a huge issue for sea life as they can affect fish behaviours and health. Not only is this a problem for fish, but the humans that farm them will also be subjected to plastic pollution through "trophic transfer" where the microplastics are carried through the biomass in the food chain. This is why it is important that single-use plastics are reduced, as it can have unforeseen consequences throughout the environment and on human health.
Besides the dangers of ingested microplastics, macroplastics are also an issue for small and larger marine animals since they can get caught in disposed fishing nets and drinking containers.
As well as dealing with plastic, sea life also has to contend with oil spills, sea acidification and overfishing to name a few.
Hope Is Not Lost
Despite the threats that risk the balance of the food and carbon cycles, the steps made by charities, scientists, and policymakers, have made significant contributions to the UN 2030 vision. With the targets associated with goal 14 still in place, the path forwards is clear and could be mostly achievable. In the meanwhile, the UN has reported that:
"Between 2018 and 2022, the... degree of... instruments to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing... has improved across the world"
This improvement in the protection of fish is key to protecting the ocean's biodiversity but also local economies from large conglomerate fisheries that may use harmful practices such as trawling. Practices like aggressive fish farming are being phased out in "marine parks" with protected areas as governments are increasing legislation in certain areas to protect aquatic species.
The UN is continuing to strive for its global aims. Their next global conference on the SDG set out in 2015, will be held in September 2023. At this meeting, they hope to set out new policies and continue to boost efforts towards keeping our oceans safe. Another three global meetings will be held this year in the name of protecting our water, carbon, and life cycles. These important steps will hopefully lead the way to increasing collaboration, information sharing and unification of the world's powers towards a more sustainable future, for us all.