The very first World Ocean Assessment released by the United Nations in 2016 noted a cycle of decline in ocean health. Urgent action on a global scale is needed to protect the ocean’s multiple ecosystems and support the ocean’s essential roles of climate stabiliser, carbon sink and provider of sustenance to 3.2 billion people. Acidification, pollution, overfishing: the Assessment concluded that the oceans’ carrying capacity is near or at its limit.
On 5 December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2021 to 2030 the “Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”, thus creating historic momentum for change. Ocean science has evolved along with society’s needs and supported new partnerships: it is an expert troubleshooter. Now society requires ocean science’s contribution to solutions for the developing blue economy and equitable access.
All parts of the ocean are connected, and all nations large and small need the knowledge and capacity to understand, observe and manage the ocean. The “Ocean Decade” is a framework for creating and strengthening connections among communities working to study, conserve and sustainably use the ocean and its resources. The Ocean Decade focuses on developing the global scientific capacity to generate and share knowledge that directly contributes to meeting the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other relevant global legal and policy frameworks.
The Challenges concisely state the most urgent priorities for the Ocean Decade. They inform the framework for the design and implementation of the initiatives carried out during the Ocean Decade. They unite Decade partners in collective action at the global, regional, national and local levels, and may evolve throughout the Decade. Each Challenge will contribute to the achievement of one or more of the Ocean Decade Outcomes.
The Ocean Decade defines the ocean as a part of the larger Earth system stretching from the coast to the open sea, and from the ocean surface to the deep ocean seabed. Transformation is central to the Ocean Decade: we need to move beyond “business as usual” to a true revolution in ocean science. The Decade is driving the generation of data, information and knowledge: the transformative science we need to move from the ocean we have to the “Ocean We Want”. These seven Outcomes describe the ocean we want at the end of the Ocean Decade:
A clean ocean where sources of pollution are identified and removed
A healthy and resilient ocean where marine ecosystems are mapped and protected.
A predicted ocean where society has the capacity to understand current and future ocean conditions.
A safe ocean where people are protected from ocean hazards.
A sustainably harvested and productive ocean ensuring the provision of food supply.
An accessible and transparent ocean with open access to data, information and technologies.
An inspiring and engaging ocean where society understands and values the ocean.
The 2030 Agenda is a global plan of action for people, the planet and prosperity. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), formulated in pursuit of global development and win-win cooperation, give the Agenda direction. They recognize that ending deprivation must go hand in hand with strategies that improve health and education, that reduce inequality while working to preserve our environment. The SDGs animate the Ocean Decade, and in turn the ocean science-related Outcomes of the Ocean Decade feed into the SDGs that are directly or tangentially related to the sustainable development of the ocean.
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