Tag Archives: Conservation

Engaging Youth to Conserve Coastal and Marine Environments

By Kerstin Forsberg

As I write this article, my country, Peru, is experiencing one of its greatest natural disasters of all time. Due to a phenomenon known locally as the coastal El Niño, intense warm ocean currents have caused heavy rainfall in some parts of the country, which led to flooding and landslides that have severely impacted the lives of over a million people.

Many assert that these types of natural phenomena can be intensified by climate change, while sceptics claim that there is still not enough data to justify this. By now, however, there should be a consensus that humanity intrinsically depends on the ocean, and it is thus our obligation to protect it. The ocean is our planet’s main life source. Two out of three breaths we take are oxygenated by the ocean. It defines our climate and provides food security. A healthy ocean guarantees subsistence and survival. We would think that such a critical notion should be embraced and preached by all, but that is not the case.

The severe disregard that people show the ocean came to my attention at an early age. In 2007, I was a 22-year-old undergraduate student researching threatened sea turtles in northern Peru. After observing the increasing mortality of these species, I approached schools in fishing communities to inquire about their initiatives in marine education. To my surprise, these issues were not being addressed by the local education system.

Soon after, realizing that there was an urgent need to connect people to the ocean, I founded Planeta Océano, a non-profit organization that empowers coastal communities through marine conservation, research, education and sustainable economic development. We also established the Marine Educators Network, with over 50 schools in Peru, to incorporate marine issues into education systems in a cross­cutting manner. With this network we have built capacity in educational institutions, developed game-based learning and engaged thousands of students in youth-led initiatives that positively impact their communities.

The network also provides youth with training in marine conservation, project development and leadership. Participants identify local environmental challenges, and receive technical and financial support to work towards solutions. To date, over 400 young people have been engaged in youth-led initiatives ranging from mangrove reforestation to advocating for sustainable fisheries, among others.

In addition to this incubator of young conservationists, we have involved youth in all Planeta Océano programmes. Youth act as ‘citizen scientists’ and are taught how to carry out research, collecting data to benefit fisheries management and threatened species, and how to help promote sustainable economic activities, such as ecotourism. At Planeta Océano, youth start as volunteers, but over time they can access leadership positions and assist in the management of activities, projects and programmes. Youth can also help guide design strategies and agendas, and engage with stakeholder groups, including fishermen, schools, businesses and authorities.

This approach has allowed us to reach over 500,000 people in Peru and enhance the personal and professional development of hundreds of youth. It has sparked multiplier effects and ownership in local communities, since messaging comes from youth community members themselves. Together with youth we are changing how marine environments are perceived. We are contributing to local success stories, such as that of Josué Granda, the 4-year-old who helped his sister volunteer in our sea turtle research programme, and who now-at 14 years of age-leads a popular environmental club in his community. Another success story involves Edgardo Cruz, the fisherman who captured a vulnerable manta ray yet later became an ambassador for manta ray conservation. Youth have become key actors in achieving legal protection for threatened manta rays, and reported new scientific evidence in support of sea turtle and elasmobranch conservation, among other activities.

As a young entrepreneur once myself, my journey with Planeta Océano has allowed me to witness the huge potential of young people in conservation and sustainable development. It has shown me the importance of engaging youth not only as participants and collaborators, but also as genuine strategic partners.

Youth are already coming up with creative solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.1 Thus, tapping into youth-a population of around 1.8 billion people worldwide-and their energy and potential for innovation and creativity is extremely timely. Despite global goals urging greater conservation efforts,2 only 3 per cent of the world’s ocean is protected;3 overfishing and eco­system degradation jeopardize food security; and sea level rise endangers the well-being of coastal communities. Nevertheless, young people remain one of our largest untapped resources for advancing the global marine conservation agenda.

This is where scaling marine education becomes critical for harnessing the potential of youth. Marine education can provide young people with the skills, tools and perspectives necessary to conserve marine environments.

If we want to further engage youth in marine conservation, however, we also need a broader systemic change. This includes, for example, further incorporating youth leadership and counselling into local, national and international institutions; increasing connections between youth and relevant stakeholders; and boosting funding for qualified youth leaders. Moreover, we need to engage entire communities—women, teachers, fishermen and children—in the design, implementation and monitoring of conservation and management efforts at every stage of these processes.

It has been 10 years since my team and I started working in the field of marine conservation. As I look back, I recognize the impact that education, partnerships and support have had on our own early career development and on our community. In the same way, engaging more youth and a greater number of local communities can promote positive change, help overcome environmental challenges and enhance effective strategies for conservation worldwide.

Furthermore, by engaging youth and coastal communities, we can also bring people together, fostering good citizenship, peace and pride, and ultimately, building communities of optimism and hope. This is exactly what marine conservation and our world finally need.

For more information on Planeta Océano, visit www.planetaoceano.org.

Notes

1       For more information on youth Initiatives, see YouthActionNet website. Available from http://www.youthactionnet.org. For more information on youth entrepreneurs, see Forbes website. Available from www.forbes.com/30-under-30-2016/social-entrepreneurs/.

2       Louisa J. Wood and others, “Assessing progress towards global marine protection targets: shortfalls in information and action”, Oryx, vol. 42, No.3 (July 2008), 340-351.

3       For more Information, see Marine Protected Areas Atlas. Available from http://www.mpatlas.org/.

 

Author bio:

Kerstin Forsberg is Director of Planeta Océano, Peru.

Making the Ocean a Partner in Our Quest for a Sustainable Future

By José Graziano Da Silva

Humanity owes much to the oceans in many aspects of life. In fact, oceans are essential in providing invaluable ecosystems and climate regulation, as well as important cultural support to the millions of people who live near the sea.

It is time for us to reciprocate and stop treating our oceans as waste pools. Today, our oceans are threatened by a range of factors, from many forms of pollution to climate change and unsustainable fishing practices, all of which are results of human activity. This is why the international community, in approving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically established SDG 14, charging us to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. This is essential for sustainability, and there is a lot to be done. Delivering on SDG 14 requires teamwork and a spirit of partnership among diverse stakeholders from many nations and sectors.

PROSPECTS FOR BLUE GROWTH

The same components and objectives set out under SDG 14 are embodied in the Blue Growth Initiative promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to reconcile ocean-related economic growth with improved livelihoods and social equity.

As 3 billion people ultimately depend on marine and coastal biodiversity, all nations agree on the need to step up efforts to protect oceans and seas, especially in the era of climate change, when transformational interventions are becoming even more urgent and encompassing. The oceans cover almost three quarters of the Earth’s surface, storing one third of all the carbon emissions stemming from human activity. They are part of the solution, and we must make them a key focus of our efforts to cope with and mitigate climate change.

Researchers have discovered that plankton, fish and marine mammals can mistake plastic material for food, and have found that banned pollutants abound in organisms more than 10 kilometres below the ocean surface. Acidified waters, which have increased by 25 per cent since the Industrial Revolution and are the tell-tale symptom of excessive greenhouse gas emissions, can impact the growth and reproductive patterns of fish and invertebrates.

The protection and responsible use of our oceans is a joint task. We are all in the same boat. This means tapping potential partnerships extending well beyond industrial production, and engaging communities and consumers in particular. Let us not forget that SDG 14 and the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are a response to the demands of people. The public’s call for action and accountability is strong. Indeed, since 2003, there has been a 40-fold increase in the amount of seafood production certified under global sustainability initiatives. This accounts for more than one seventh of all seafood output and is, in fact, rapidly catching up—and I hope and trust will soon surpass—the one sixth of all seafood that is caught in illegal, unreported or unregulated ways.

BUILDING MOMENTUM WITH THE PORT STATE MEASURES AGREEMENT

FAO is leading campaigns to enforce fair rules in an international sector where worldwide net export revenues for developing countries are worth more than those for trade in any agricultural commodity. Both human livelihoods and the sustainability of fish stocks are harder to support when laws are defied.

A very important step in this endeavour is the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing. FAO drafted and brokered agreements to this treaty, which is designed to crack down on all rogue fishing vessels and prevent their catch—estimated to be up to 26 million tons each year and worth $23 billion—from entering markets. PSMA, which entered into force in 2016, marks a new dawn, going well beyond previous flag and port State rules and requiring all ships to submit to inspections wherever they dock, even for refuelling.

The Agreement is especially important, as one of the specific targets included in SDG 14 is to effectively end IUU fishing by 2020—just three years from now—in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yields. Achieving the target date for ending IUU will require an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach. Robust implementation of PSMA and compliance with fishery management protocols are obviously essential. So, too, are initiatives aimed at reducing and recovering fishing gear lost at sea, which is estimated to account for as much as 640,000 tons of rubbish put into the oceans each year, around one tenth of the total. FAO is actively promoting stronger rules for marking fishing gear, which industry participants recognize would strike a blow to IUU fishing activities as well as facilitate recovery of nets and other equipment which, when lost or dumped overboard, continue to entangle fish.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

FAO participates in the implementation of many programmes aimed at promoting sustainable fisheries and preserving marine resources. One of them, the Nansen Programme, is carried out in partnership with the Government of Norway. Over the last 40 years, vessels funded by Norway and operating under the United Nations flag have conducted research activities that have vastly deepened our understanding of underwater ecosystems and the life­sustaining fisheries that so many people around the globe depend on, especially those living in developing countries in Africa and Asia. The Programme has allowed us to improve research and activities where marine observations are extremely limited, and better understand the impacts of climate change and other external drivers, such as pollution, on aquatic ecosystems. This is crucial to enabling developing countries to increase the resilience of ecosystems and coastal communities, especially with regard to small-scale fisheries.

INCLUDE THE PEOPLE OF THE SEA

The way forward must ensure that the shift to sustainability produces benefits for the people who rely on the sea the most: the residents of small island developing States and small-scale artisanal fishers, especially in developing countries. These States and communities lack the scale and capacity to carry out all the needed transformations on their own. While FAO offers help and advice, it is crucial that everyone, especially those better able to shoulder the task, recognize the responsibility to increase efforts by making even more ambitious commitments of their own. Responsible fishing in national as well as international waters, adequate knowledge and technology transfers, and collaborations enabling fish products to enter global trade markets are all essential.

Nowadays, about 120 million people depend on commercial fisheries for their livelihoods, and nearly 90 per cent of them work in small-scale fisheries in developing countries, especially in Africa and Asia. They are among the poorest communities in the world, and they risk being further marginalized if we fail to recognize the importance of small-scale fisheries.

Thus, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture are crucial in our quest to implement the 2030 Agenda, and not only to achieve SDG 14 but also to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, as stipulated in Goals 1 and 2.

Author bio: José Graziano Da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.