7 June 2017

Africa: Our Very Survival Depends On the Survival of the Ocean

Photo: Lwp Kommunikáció/Flickr
Great white shark breaches the ocean surface (file photo).
opinion

The ocean is amazing - It covers almost three quarters of the Earth's surface and contains 97 per cent of the Earth's water. Billions of people depend on the ocean for their income and nutrition. It is also home to thousands of beautiful species, some at the risk of extinction due to human activity.

In Tanzania, many people's livelihoods and lives are directly connected to a healthy ocean. From the fishermen and the seaweed farmers, to all of us enjoying a walk on a clean and safe beach, for every one of us who are affected by climate change, the ocean is vital.

Unfortunately the world's oceans are in a critical condition. Overfishing, litter and acidification threaten both oceans and people. Human activity is responsible for this state of affairs. Contamination through littering and insufficient sewage control and unsustainable fishing methods such as dynamite, are all examples of how we mistreat our friend the ocean. But it is not too late to turns this around.

To support already existing efforts as well as to inspire action to save the world's oceans, Sweden and Fiji have jointly taken the initiative to invite all UN member states to the UN Ocean Conference in New York June 5-9.

Underpinning these efforts is the Sustainable Development Goal on oceans, seas and marine resources - Goal 14 of the UN 2030 Agenda. The sustainable marine goal is central to the entire UN development agenda and is closely linked to other goals, such as poverty reduction, food security, climate action, sustainable production and consumption, and a secure supply of clean water.

Through our partners Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS), both located here in Tanzania, Sweden is contributing to important research and evidence based policy decisions on how to keep both the ocean and everyone whose lives depend on it happy and healthy.

We need to find new ways of using the ocean without abusing it; we need to become a better friend, we need to protect the marine environment and ensure that this life giving source will be sustained for future generations to come. Through our Tanzanian partners, we are set to achieving precisely that.

And while we need to start here, where we are, this is a global issue. As Sweden's ambassador to Tanzania, I am of course delighted that Dr Charles Tizeba, Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries will represent Tanzania at the Ocean Conference and I am sure it will be a great exchange of knowledge and experiences.

The conference has ambitious goals and will result in a joint 'Call for Action' to advance efforts towards a sustainable ocean, it is time to move from words to deeds. We need to work together on all levels of society. We need the policy makers to do their jobs and the people of this planet to do theirs. Rising sea temperatures, coral bleaching, dynamite and over fishing and marine pollution is a concern to us all. If we continue like this, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. A ban on plastic bags is a step in the right direction. Let us also make sure that the plastic which is already in our homes do not end up in our ocean, and to keep reminding ourselves and each other to be a good friend to the ocean.

Another important aspect is the partnership dialogues where leading global stakeholders, such as business, civil society and the knowledge-based society, contribute to innovative solutions to solve major common challenges. WIOMSA and IMS are doing important work helping people making their livelihoods from the ocean while still being its friend. Hopefully they can inspire and be inspired by likeminded organisations from all over the world.

The UN Ocean Conference will provide us with the opportunity to change track and reverse the negative trend. A clean and living ocean is a prerequisite for the survival of us all. And it should therefore be a priority for us all.

Katarina Rangnitt is Sweden's ambassador to Tanzania.

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