Marine scientists call on G7 countries to prioritize ocean protections

Published on
May 20, 2021

An international group of marine scientists have called on G7 countries to prioritize planning ocean protections at the next summit, to take place in Cornwall, England, next month.

The scientists’ statement, dubbed “Seven Asks for the G7,” includes a list of seven actionable steps that could be taken to protect the oceans. Those steps, according to the letter, are central to addressing climate change and supporting “human wellbeing.”

“We cannot solve the climate or biodiversity crises if we ignore the ocean. To turn the tide in favor of humanity and a habitable planet we need to better understand the ocean, value it, and prioritize urgent action to protect it at the Earthscape level,” the letter states. “G7 nations have unparalleled capacity and political will to make this happen.”

The seven "asks" include:

  • Banning the "destructive extraction of ocean resources" – such as deep sea mining, offshore gas and oil exploration, and overfishing;
  • Regulating and eliminating ocean pollution such as plastics and other marine litter;
  • Expanding marine protected areas so that at least 30 percent of the ocean is protected;
  • Initiating a global study of the ocean with an emphasis on climate change mitigation;
  • Prioritizing nature-based solutions and supporting ocean science;
  • Negotiating a “high-seas treaty” to close gaps in ocean governance and finance;
  • Making ocean education mainstream to improve the “collective understanding about the ocean."

Dan Laffoley, a marine ecologist with the IUCN Global Marine and Polar Program, as well as marine vice chair of the IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, was a signatory of the letter. 

“Our blue planet is reliant on the ocean for favorable conditions on land. To cut emissions and not protect the ocean at scale is to entirely miss the point about how our planet works,” Laffoley said. “The stakes are so high that the decisions taken now will define the next 1,000, or even 10,000 years.”

Calls for increased ocean protections come as the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is making a push to protect 30 percent of its oceans by 2030 in the “30 by 30” plan. An executive order signed by Biden early in his presidency aims to commit 30 percent of both lands and oceans to conservation to “tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad.”

On 6 May, Biden took further action toward that goal by instructing NOAA to expand the National Marine Sanctuaries System and the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, in addition to additional work on restoring fish populations and protecting threatened and endangered species.

A recent study also found that protecting a minimum of 30 percent of the ocean could boost fisheries, help reduce carbon emissions, and protect biodiversity.  Those conclusions have been challenged by the seafood industry and other researchers.

“The G7 meeting in Cornwall could be a turning point, where we see commitments to meaningful, united action for the ocean on a timeline that could actually make a difference,” the scientists’ letter states. “It is a chance to commit to integrated, science-based solutions that address the interconnectivity between the ocean, climate and biodiversity.”  

Photo courtesy of YashSD/Shutterstock

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