On the occasion of World Oceans Day, Oceana is calling to innovate differently in order to help the ocean recover its past abundance. Oceana highlights that technology alone will not save the ocean, and that Nature can be the greatest innovator by building healthy, resilient marine ecosystems to counteract negative human impacts. The real innovation in ocean conservation is relieving human pressures and leaving ocean ecosystems to play their own role.
“This year’s World Oceans Day is dedicated to ‘innovation for a sustainable ocean’, and when we think of ‘innovation’ we often think of ‘high-tech’,” explained Pascale Moerhle, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “But we must not forget about the proven, ‘low-tech’ or even ‘no-tech’ solutions available to us, and that we are still not fully making the most of. The best innovation would be to act by engaging in sustainable fishing practices, curbing pollution and truly protecting vital marine ecosystems”.
One no-tech solution that would be vital to address some of the most unseen problems is to reduce fishing activity in strategic areas to allow fish populations to recover and bounce back in abundance. Human intervention is not needed to regenerate fish populations, as marine ecosystems respond very well to reduced human pressure.
Similarly, no ‘rocket-science’ solutions are needed to mitigate the impact of marine litter, and particularly single-use plastics. The key is to foster innovative behaviour by companies and individuals, who should go back to basics and refuse unnecessary items, reduce their consumption of plastic, and reuse items through, for instance, deposit-return schemes.
Investing in restoring blue carbon habitats, like seagrass meadows and kelp forests, is a cost-effective natural solution to help fight climate change. These habitats cover just 10% of the area, but store the same amount of CO2 as land-based forests. In turn, these strong and healthy marine ecosystems also provide socio-economic benefits, as they are essential breeding grounds for commercial fish and other sea life.
To solve persistent issues like Illegal Unreported and Unregulated fishing, technology is already available and simply needs to be rolled out. Cost-effective location trackers that are small and tamper-proof have been installed in small-scale vessels in Spain and Greece, with benefits to fishers’ income. Local fishers are using their mobile phones to inform buyers of their arrival in port, increasing their customer base and informing control authorities of their fishing activity.
Technology can also play a vital role in helping us to explore and better understand the richness and diversity of marine ecosystems. Most of our ocean remains unexplored, a missed opportunity to completely understand the functioning of the deep sea, the interaction between different species, and the dynamics that influence the ocean’s role in climate regulation.
“A balance between technology and Nature is the best way to ensure our ocean is protected. Sometimes it is about letting Nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape our coasts, repair damaged ecosystems and restore natural resilience. Innovation and technology are not an end in themselves, nor do they flourish in a vacuum. Continued leadership and ambition are needed, as well as a true will to implement those commitments so often signed with another low-tech item — a ball-point pen,” said Vera Coelho, Senior Director of Advocacy at Oceana in Europe.
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