World Oceans Day: Protecting Oceans Around the Globe
8 June 2009, World Oceans Day - Oceans cover more than 70 per cent of the Earth's surface - they have a significant effect on our climate and play a crucial role in maintaining the many ecosystem services such as fisheries. UNEP is working to protect oceans all around the planet; for World Oceans Day, here is an overview of some of the UNEP programmes around the world.
Oceans are the source of most rainfall and they regulate the earth's temperatures and wind patterns. Though generally recognized as several 'separate' oceans, these waters comprise one global interconnected body of salt water often referred to as the World Ocean or global ocean.
Healthy and functioning oceans provide essential services to human communities that support economic well-being and human health to include providing food, shoreline protection, a source of non living resources for energy and trade, recreation, culture and a critical role in regulating the earth's climate. Unfortunately, human activities are putting oceans under increasing pressure. Resulting changes in the marine environment are occurring at a faster pace than anticipated, affecting especially the most vulnerable marine ecosystems such as coral reefs.
UNEP continues to address the accelerating degradation of the world's oceans and coastal areas through sustainable management and wise use of marine and coastal environment taking into consideration the interconnected nature of the world's oceans and coastlines, its rich and varied biodiversity and the importance of marine resources to millions of people.
Increasing pollution, degradation of habitats and emerging impacts of climate change provide tremendous challenges. UNEP Regional Seas Programmes are important intergovernmental organizations that address these challenges by engaging neighboring countries in comprehensive and specific actions to protect their shared marine environment.
Mediterranean Action Plan
UNEP/MAP is the Mediterranean Action Plan, the first regional seas convention established under UNEP's umbrella. It is a regional cooperative effort involving 21 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the European Union. Significant progress achieved by MAP over the last year include a new law introduced on 1st May that prohibits the dumping of garbage from ships into the Mediterranean Sea.
In addition, a new Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management was approved in January 2008. Within the framework of Land Based Sources Protocol for pollution reduction from land-based sources, Mediterranean countries and parties to the Barcelona Convention have agreed this year on an initial set of actions covering the reduction of municipal pollution and the elimination of a number of Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Caribbean Environment Programme
The Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) continues to encourage member states in meeting the Caribbean Challenge target of protecting 20 percent of marine and coastal habitats by 2020. The Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem Project and development of a Regional Fund for Wastewater Management will support regional collaboration to reduce the vulnerability of sensitive coastal and marine ecosystems by improving national and regional governance structures and developing new and innovative mechanisms for financing new pollution reduction activities.
Northwest Pacific member states are participating in global negotiations on climate change and biodiversity conservation through NOWPAP, the Action Plan for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Northwest Pacific Region. They will address these cross-cutting issues from a regional perspective as well, including through integrated coastal area and river basin management and through developing regional pilot projects on alien species, marine protected areas and climate change adaptation.
While implementing the Marine Litter Activity (MALITA) in the region, NOWPAP member states realized that one of the main reasons behind worsening situation with marine litter is the general public's lack of awareness regarding the sources, quantities and impacts of marine litter. To change the situation, a series of workshops were organized in each country, associated with the beach cleanups.
As a result, two NOWPAP countries, China and Russia, recently joined the annual International Coastal Cleanup campaigns (Japan and Korea were already members). These events brought together representatives from different government agencies, non-governmental organizations and NOWPAP partners in the region and beyond as well as researchers and school kids. Raising public awareness, along with member states' efforts to reduce marine litter input to the marine environment, will help reduce this threat to our oceans in the future. Another positive outcome of MALITA was the development and approval by the member states of the NOWPAP Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter which is currently being implemented.
Abidjan and Nairobi Conventions
The countries of the Abidjan and Nairobi Conventions have taken some measures designed to make the ocean respond to impacts of climate change. During this year's World Oceans Day, a UNEP WIO LaB demonstration project "A wetland-lagoon system for wastewater management" will be commissioned at Shimo La Tewa Prison, Mombasa, Kenya. This project demonstrates how oceans can be kept clean through the use of natural wetland systems with minimum energy requirements. Upcoming initiatives include development of integrated water resources management in African Small Islands Developing States in response to emerging demand for tools to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change such as sea level rise.
8 June, World Oceans Day, is an opportunity to celebrate the world's ocean and to build greater awareness of the crucial role of the ocean in our lives and the important ways each of us can help. It provides an opportunity for everyone to get involved in protecting our ocean and our future as we all share one global ocean.
Notes to editors:
In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly decided that, as from 2009, 8 June would be designated by the United Nations as "World Oceans Day" (resolution 63/111, paragraph 171). The theme of the inaugural observance of the World Oceans Day by the United Nations in 2009 is "Our Oceans, Our Responsibility".