Oceans and coasts are important parts of our environment and play a vital role in the regulation of our climate. But this unique ecosystem urgently needs our protection. The principle of the freedom of the sea, which has held for hundreds of years, and which has granted everyone unlimited access to the ocean and its resources, has led to over-fishing and pollution.
Despite the vast capacity of oceans to absorb heat and carbon dioxide, climate change has led to marked changes in their temperature and is causing significant damage.
The fragmented nature of governance and legislation with regards to oceans, both within nations and globally, has rendered it difficult to develop coherent policies towards protection. The result is not only an irreparable loss of biodiversity, but people and livelihoods are at risk, too.
With 80 percent, the majority of the word population today lives in proximity to coasts. In many countries, including South Africa, coastal communities depend on fishing for income and food security.
In June 2017, an Oceans Conference was convened by the United Nations for the first time, inviting governments and stakeholders to develop strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans. On that occasion, the Heinrich Böll Foundation together with Geomar Institute launched an Ocean Atlas, which reveals facts and figures and seeks to stimulate more public engagement.
This panel, jointly hosted with the International Oceans Institute – South Africa (IOI-SA), will present the Ocean Atlas and invite experts and the audience to engage on challenges in South Africa and globally, as well as on a way forward to improve protection policies.
For more information about the Ocean Atlas please see the website.