International concern for the plight of the global ocean is at an all-time high. In April this year, the 53 countries of the Commonwealth adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter, creating a bright blue beacon to guide cooperative action on ocean issues.
World Oceans Day has come a long way from 1992 when it was first proposed by Canada. Now the ocean has its own Sustainable Development Goal, thanks to the foresight of Peter Thomson and many others. SDG 14 commits countries to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”
Our ocean and the coastal communities around it are receiving a lot of negative news coverage – about plastic rubbish, declining fisheries, acidification, rising sea levels, destructive hurricanes. But now countries recognise that time is of the essence and they are cooperating to achieve their goals.
In the Blue Charter’s own words, the time has come to “move from words to actions.”
Already, eight Action Groups are being established, led by Commonwealth countries. More are anticipated.
Innovation is key to this whole issue. We need practical new ideas for on-the-ground action – that’s what the Action Groups aim to deliver
For example, Australia, Belize, and Mauritius have stepped forward to co-lead a Blue Charter Action Group on coral reef regeneration. Just a few years ago, scientists were lonely voices sounding the alarm about coral. Now it is common knowledge that the world’s reefs are in peril.
Commonwealth countries realise that their work must go beyond protecting coral reefs to actively restoring them. And they are stepping up to the task!
Likewise, Sri Lanka is leading a Mangrove Restoration Action Group. Cyprus is leading on sustainable aquaculture, and New Zealand is tackling ocean acidification. And the list goes on…
“To see Commonwealth leaders stepping forward for the ocean was a real ‘pinch-me moment,’” says Jeff Ardron, who coordinates work under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.
After years of being out of sight, out of mind, the ocean is now on everyone’s minds, and the Commonwealth Blue Charter is a good reason to celebrate World Oceans Day with a pinch of hope.