The Our Ocean Conference 2023, was celebrated on March 2nd and 3rd in Panama City, Panama.
These conferences were established to foster collaborations between business, science, government, and civil society toward ocean protection. They use knowledge, technology, and finance to address the issues the ocean is facing and make it possible for production and sustainable use to coexist so that the ocean can continue to satisfy present and future generations’ needs. The core of the Our Ocean conferences, designed to produce substantial and meaningful actions toward a clean, healthy, and productive ocean, is a voluntary commitment.
At the close of the Our Ocean conference, 341 new commitments were sealed to combat pollution, illegal fishing, and other threats to the marine ecosystem, which contemplate funds for almost 20,000 million dollars.
Why is this conference important?
The ocean is vitally important to the Earth’s environment, biodiversity, and human life. It supports a wide variety of habitats, provides much of the world’s supply of food and fuels, helps regulate our climate and weather systems, and offers many recreational activities. The ocean also plays an important role in international trade – it is used to transport goods from one region to another, to explore new resources, and serves as a location for military operations. Additionally, the ocean provides many essential services such as oxygen production, carbon storage, and water cycle regulation which are vital for life on earth.
80% of all life on Earth resides in the ocean, which also serves as a food source for more than 3 billion people and a hub for international commerce. However, this important resource is in jeopardy due to climate change, irresponsible behavior, unlawful fishing, careless pollution, and the destruction of marine habitats. It is time for all countries to come together to stop the ocean from further deteriorating.
Summary of Our Ocean conference
The conference encompasses action areas that pinpoint ways to enhance marine resource management, boost ocean climate change resilience, and maintain ocean health for future generations.
Areas of priority include:
- Marine protected areas
- Sustainable blue economies
- Climate change
- Maritime security
- Sustainable fisheries
- Marine pollution
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Over 600 representatives from governments, NGOs, companies, and international organizations from across the world gathered at the Our Ocean Conference in Panama City to discuss and develop a global ocean action agenda for sustainable development. The conference emphasized the importance of strong partnerships among governments, civil society, and industry in order to develop effective strategies for protecting the ocean’s resources. These initiatives support conference action areas that identify solutions to improve the management of marine resources, increase ocean resilience to climate change, and safeguard ocean health for generations to come.
Participants also discussed ways of encouraging investment in sustainable blue economies initiatives, such as marine protected areas (MPAs), artificial or natural reefs, habitat restoration projects, renewable energy projects, and aquaculture activities
Panama has been recognized as a “Blue Leader”, a title that is only granted to countries that have reached the goal of protecting 30% or more of their oceans, an achievement that Panama achieved before the date scheduled for the year 2030.
The signing of the law that expands the protected area of Banco Volcán and increases the area from 14,201.13 square kilometers to 93,390.71 km2; that is to say, reaching 54.33% of the marine area under some level of protection, already constitutes in itself a milestone. In addition to ensuring the long-term preservation of its marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of the people who depend on these ecosystems, Panama is also in a position to take the helm of a much more ambitious regional effort thanks to the protection of more than half of its seas, including substantial ocean reserves on both sides of the isthmus.
At the meeting, the Panamanian Ministry of Environment also announced that by banning single-use plastics like cups and utensils, plastic packaging, and virgin plastic, the nation hoped to prevent the importation and consumption of more than 160,000 tons of plastic.
One of the most outstanding results has been leading, together with Belgium, a call to countries to promote the finalization of the discussion on the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty (High Seas). Belgium announced an important financing of 80 million dollars for the ratification of this treaty, coming from private philanthropic and public funds, as well as from international organizations.
Bloomberg Philanthropies and Arcadia, two charitable organizations, also made a commitment, establishing a $51 million fund to assist Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs), NGOs, and governments in enhancing and expanding marine protection and assisting countries in protecting 30% of oceans by 2030, a target set by the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
Concrete results were achieved, such as the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR) agreement, of which Panama occupies the pro tempore presidency, and the Pacific Foundation to guarantee the conservation and sustainable use of this area that encloses the Galapagos islands in Ecuador, Malpelo and Gorgona in Colombia, Cocos in Costa Rica and Coiba in Panama. Areas of common interest will be identified to establish joint work plans.
The United States and Panama announced their intention to establish technical cooperation tables to facilitate the creation of an ecological maritime corridor.