UN Ocean Conference | #UNOC2022

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What a week 27 June to 1 July was!!…

It started abruptly, after landing with my Flying Sharks hat, from teaching a “Shark Course” at the Israel Aquarium, and practically heading to the Ocean Base Camp, a venue dedicated to hosting multiple UN Ocean Conference (UNOC) side-events, but also a hub for like minded souls to mingle and network.

But let’s see if we can recap this tremendous week and what it meant to Ocean Conservation:

Day #1 – 27 June

We started by moderating a very interesting debate on Partnerships, hosted by PONG-Pesca, an organization that acts as an umbrella for multiple NGOs dedicated to fisheries and Ocean Conservation. This debate included the following amazing guests:

Check out the amazing drawing Iris Maertens did while we debated, summarizing the contents of our discussions. Iris then did similar drawings during all debates!

Day #2 – 28 June

The day started with an excellent session on the role of MARE researchers in Ocean Conservation, which included yet another very distinguished panel:

Then we returned to Ocean Base Camp for yet another cool presentation by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) focused on sharks and CITES, which welcomed the Minister of Environment from Panama, who shared some exciting news with us all:

  • While the whole world committed to “30 by 30”, which means “30% of the oceans becoming a Marine Protected Area by 2030”, Panama is already at 35% and aims to have 40% of its EEZ declared an MPA within the next 2~3 years!
  • This small country also sponsored the whole of shark family Carcharhinidade (also known as requiem sharks) to be added to CITES at the upcoming Conference of the Parties (CoP19), a truly momentous measure backed up by Bangladesh, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, European Union, Gabon, Israel, Maldives, El Salvador, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and United Kingdom.

Day #3 – 29 June

The highlight of this morning was supposed to be the Sea Shepherd session on sharks, with none other than Dr. Sylvia Earle as a Keynote Speaker. But two things happened that totally stole “Her Deepness’s” thunder!

  • First, I knew that Charles Clover, author of “The End of the Line“, was going to be there, so I brough my 2007 copy and had it signed! This amazing book has been my source of case-studies for Marine Resource Management classes at Escola Superior de Turismo e Tecnologia do Mar for nearly 20 years!
  • And when I thought the week couldn’t possibly get better, Catarina Silva, a young student, comes to me with a copy of “Tubarões Voadores and asks exactly the same! Needless to say I was floating on air the rest of the month!…

Then there were multiple other events, meetings, chats and beers, which all blend into a blur, after such an extraordinary morning! But one of those meetings stands out, and that is the conversation I had with ocean explorer extraordinaire Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the remarkable Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Day #4 – 30 June

While the morning started with a session on Deep Sea Exploration, with yet another wonderful Keynote address by Dr. Sylvia Earle, I had to rush to a session on “Growing awareness on sustainable development and the Ocean Decade through Aquariums”, hosted by our friend, and client, Phillipe Valette from Nausicaá.

And while that session was incredibly interesting, with contributions from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and New England Aquarium on their spectacular roles in Ocean Conservation, the highlight was when Fabien Cousteau entered the Auditorium! At that point I just knew that my shyness from the evening before had been given another chance so, this time, the whole Flying Sharks team snapped a selfie with the creator of Proteus Ocean Group!

PS – If you’re interested in the role of public aquaria in Ocean Conservation, you may enjoy this chapter that yours truly wrote for the Encyclopedia of the UN sustainable development goals.

After multiple meetings (and beers), it was time to get back on stage again, this time inside the “One Sustainable Ocean” area, promoted by the General-Directorate of Marine Policy (DGPM), by presenting our half-million euros projecto “Flying Sharks – Mobile Station” to the Ambassador from Norway, the Secretary of State of the Sea, and Director of ForumOceano, as well as multiple investors, stakeholders and fellow promoters.

Day #5 – 1 July

Friday was the day we said goodbye to each other, but not before moderating yet another debate, this time on Ocean Health and Overfishing, in the all too familiar Auditorium of Pavilhão do Conhecimento – Ciência Viva. This event was promoted by Cristina Rocha Antunes, intrepid and dynamic creator of United by the Sea, an NGO focused on raising awareness on the Conservation of the Oceans. This panel included two notable guests (below), and yours truly had a chance to present the case for sharks in Portugal as well:

  • Liz Courtney, Documentary-maker | Social Entrepreneur | TEDx Speaker | Climate Change Visionary from Sidney, who talked about coral conservation
  • Susana Salvador, Executive Secretary of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and continguous Atlantic area (ACCOBAMS) Secretariat, who discussed bycatch and how it relates to cetaceans in the Mediterranean and adjacent areas

Needless to say this week was also a phenomenal opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones, and while that list is too long to compile, we’ll let the photo gallery below do all the talking.

One thing is certain, though, whether we’ll see momentous and quick change in Ocean Conservation swiftly, or not, remains to be seen, but for one week nearly 7000 people did their absolute best to shift things into a positive and speedy direction, and one can only hope that such incredible momentumhas to bring good things! After all, Charles Clover’s book “Rewilding the Sea” narrates multiple examples of dire problems that got fixed, such as bluefin tuna stocks, which have been growing steadily for the past few years, thanks to the amazing action by policy makers, who finally began accepting technical advice of scientists from ICCAT.

If we can fix tiny bits of the Ocean one step at a time, there’s no reason to doubt that, eventually, we’ll have more good bits, than bad ones.

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