Monday, 22 January 2018
Why you should be concerned about the state of the ocean.

Why you should be concerned about the state of the ocean.

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang
LAST Thursday, June 8, 2017, the United Nations (UN) led the world to celebrate World Oceans Day. But Wofa Yaw Kudom could not be bothered about such a celebration.

He lives at Krabonsu near Kintampo and is a farmer. He loves bush meat and is not a fan of fish, especially the type from the sea. So, naturally, being a ‘Bono’ man, he cares little about the sea, let alone the ocean.
“After all, I’m so far away from the sea? Why should I even care about the ocean? It has nothing to do with my life,” he says, in response to a question about whether the ocean has any significance for his life.
In a way, Wofa Kudom is right. Kintampo is about 202 miles or 424.57 km from Ghana’s capital, Accra, a coastal city, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south. As a farmer, his work basically involves interacting with the soil. Therefore, he cares about whether his land is still fertile enough to support crop cultivation and productivity, the quality of seeds available for planting and of course about weather conditions.
Wofa Kudom is very concerned about the rains, without which his crops will never do well. He cares about when and how it rains and all the weather-relating elements, including the winds. And for him, that explains why he, and all those who live far away from the coast, need not to care about the ocean.
Scientists, scientific institutions and organisations agree that “No matter how far you live from the shore, oceans still affect your life and the lives of your families and friends, classmates and colleagues.”
The scientists say, “The air that you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, the products that keep you warm, safe, informed, and entertained — all can come from or are transported by the ocean.”
And, it is to raise global awareness of the importance of the oceans in sustaining life on earth that World Oceans Day is celebrated annually on June 8th. This year’s celebration was on the theme; ‘Our Oceans, Our Future’. The purpose was to draw public attention to the many resources and services provided by oceans, including oxygen, climate regulation, food sources and medicines.
To commemorate the Day’s celebration, the UN organised a week-long Conference on Oceans at its headquarters in New York last week. And to climax the Day, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, issued a statement reminding the global community that “oceans connect all of us, linking people and nations in cultural ties, and they are essential for sharing goods and services across the world”.
He stressed that “caring for and using our oceans in sustainable ways is critical to achieve ecological and economic goals for communities everywhere”.
The Secretary-General, however, pointed out that, “The future of our oceans is burdened by numerous threats – such as climate change and oceans acidification, pollution, unsustainable and destructive fishing practices- and lack of capacities to address these threats”.
He expressed concern about how human activities have affected the functioning of the oceans and citing excerpts fromthe first World Oceans Assessment Report, said, “The impact of human activities on the oceans has increased dramatically, particularly the cumulative impacts, and the oceans carrying capacity is near, or at its limit.”
Mr. Guterres said these threats can be addressed through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development, and that the Conference was meant to support Sustainable Development goal 14, which is “to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”
He noted that this will be possible “only if we manage to address effectively the threats that oceans face. This will require collaboration at all levels and across many sectors,” adding, “our future will thus be determined by our collective resolve to share information and find solutions to common problems.”
The President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, had earlier stated that “the Ocean Conference is where we truly begin the process of reversing the cycle of decline into which our accumulated activities have placed the Ocean”.
He said, “By adding to the conference’s register of voluntary commitments; of producing practical solutions to Ocean’s problems at the Partnership Dialogues; and through the affirmation of the conference’s Call for Action, we have begun that process of reversing the wrongs”.
The Conference, which also discussedat length solutions that will restore the health of the world’s ocean, was attended by heads of state, government delegations and ministers as well as ocean experts, businesses and corporate bodies, and civil society organizations.
By the time it ended on Friday June 9, 2017, over 600 commitments were made targeting a wide range of ocean problems, ranging from protecting coral reefs, strengthening sustainable fisheries, reducing plastic pollution, and addressing the impacts of climate change on the ocean.
This was crowned with a call for action through which, the delegations committed to among other things: “…recognize that the wellbeing of present and future generations is inextricably linked to the health and productivity of our ocean,” and pledged to halt and reverse the decline in the health and productivity of our ocean and its ecosystems, and protect and restore its resilience and ecological integrity.
This call for action is preceded by an earlier one from the European Union (EU) urging its member states to action on pressing issues, including the state of the oceans that directly affect their future. The call came following an acknowledgment by European scientists that if the issues of oceans can be adequately addressed at the local, national, regional and global levels, “science cannot operate in isolation”.
“Science will need to integrate more fully with society at the right decisions, we must understand how things "work" in the oceans and how they interact; and we must recognise the role of the oceans in our life-support system and its value for humankind.”
Moving the process forward will require excellent science, together with the technology for pursuing it, as well as the support of individuals and governments. Eventually, it calls for a vision of the planet that embraces land, sea, the atmosphere and human societies in all its interactions.
This will further necessitate public sensitization on the importance of the oceans for sustaining life on earth. There is because all and sundry, whether you live in the coast or hinterland, whether you’re a farmer or fisherman, a trader or policy maker, you need to come to that point of appreciating that human life is sustained by a system of interconnected and interlinkages with other parts of the natural environment.