“Oceans are the lungs of our planet and the entire humanity depends on them for its survival. Let's protect them for a sustainable future.” - United Nations Information Centre Rabat
Every year, the United Nations (UN) celebrates our maritime environments with World Ocean Day and World Ocean Week. This year, June 8 marks the beginning of both of these events and heralds in the beginning of a new era in environmental advocacy: The United Nations Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).
This year’s theme is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean.” The theme focuses on the development and implementation of new technologies, systems infrastructures, resource management strategies, more sustainable consumer products, the “blue economy,” and scientific explorations. By partnering with dozens of organizations and government bodies, the UN hopes to bridge the gap between new sciences, our ancient dependence on the oceans for survival, and a blue and green sustainable future.
The United Nations General Assembly announced the idea behind the Decade in December 2017. Since then, numerous international panels and committees have met to discuss the scientific community’s role with governments and economic institutions to promote and maintain the health of our oceans.
In November of 2019, members of the Moroccan government met with representatives from South Africa, Angola, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay to discuss the future of the South Atlantic. The workshop, held in Rio de Janeiro, highlighted issues such as a rising sea level, regional trends, and salinity anomalies.
For Morocco, these issues are especially pertinent, as maritime transport and shipping, tourism, and sand extractions heavily contribute to the national economy. By working with international organizations, Morocco may be able to combat the pollution caused by these industries, as well as protect its marine biodiversity from overfishing, and its sea-side agricultural communities at risk of sea-level rise and increasing salinization.
By working with international organizations, Morocco reaffirms its commitments to preserving ocean ecosystems and the valuable services they provide. The Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development commits to re-establishing “a Clean Ocean, a Safe Ocean, a Healthy and Resilient Ocean, a Predicted Ocean, a Sustainably Productive Ocean, a Transparent and Accessible Ocean, and [improved rates of] Ocean Literacy,” internationally.
Prior to the Decade and its partnerships, Morocco had already signed and ratified the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Protocol. The ICZM represents a promise by both Mediterranean and Black Sea countries to “better manage and protect their coastal zones, as well as to deal with the emerging coastal environmental challenges” such as climate change or natural disasters.
There are currently numerous other forms of environmental legislation established or agreed upon by the Moroccan government. Through international and intra-regional partnerships, the country hopes to promote healthier oceans for Morocco’s coastal cities, create opportunities for intergovernmental advocacy, establish and maintain local and regional coastal management plans, and encourage private sector, civil society, and individual action to protect and preserve the ocean.
There are multiple ways to celebrate World Ocean Day both in Morocco and internationally.
Beach cleanups and ocean literacy programs may be available in some locations around the world but, as quarantine continues, following the celebration through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may be the only option. Many organizations are responding to this reality by live streaming and recording political and scientific discussions, such as the UN’s World Oceans Day Celebration.
The United Nations Information Centre Rabat, through Facebook, encourages its followers to stop drinking bottled water, avoid buying packaged products in plastic, and to take part in beach cleaning when movement restrictions are lifted.
Some international events are postponed until later in the summer to adapt to coronavirus concerns. For Morocco, one of these events includes an organized beach cleanup in Tamraght, rescheduled for November 4, 2020.
Other resources to get involved with World Ocean Day include the UN World Ocean Day website, where interested individuals can find resources, pledges, and more information on bilateral agreements to keep our ocean clean, protected, and preserved.