The Elephant in the Room – Alan Deidun
As famed and veteran oceanographer Sylvia Earle aptly stated, “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you are connected to the sea, no matter where you live on Earth.” Our very fickle existence on this planet is intrinsically linked to the health of our seas.
Despite the essential role played by the ocean as a survival system (for example, absorbing at least 25% of the excess atmospheric carbon dioxide generated by the combustion of fossil fuels, releasing at least half of the atmospheric oxygen to our layout and acting as a giant conveyor belt circulating heat around the world), it is still difficult to engage the general public in marine conservation issues.
Translating this caveat into the local context, there is a good degree of public mobilization in response to actual or perceived environmental deterioration on the land, but only a moan when it comes to cases of environmental theft under the waves. . The relentless regression of Posidonia oceanica meadows, for example, which are more effective at capturing dissolved carbon dioxide than trees are with atmospheric carbon dioxide on land, in indentations like Xemxija or Marsaxlokk as a result of ‘activities such as anchoring and dredging, barely makes the header lines.
In the pre-COVID era, specifically in 2017, the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) predicted that the global ocean economy, which currently accounts for around 2.5% of gross value added (GVA ) global, would represent a total output of $ 3 billion by 2030, which would maintain the ocean economy in the 10 largest economies in the world, with total direct jobs in maritime sectors expected to rise from the current figure of 31 million to 40 million by 2030.
Despite this, traditional financial instruments are fueling a decrease in the resilience of our seas and, therefore, innovative financial solutions are needed. Blue finance, especially blue bonds, has enormous potential to help overcome these challenges. Blue bonds are an innovative instrument for financing the oceans through which the funds raised are reserved exclusively for projects deemed to be respectful of the ocean. The Republic of Seychelles launched the world’s first sovereign blue bond last year, raising a total of $ 15 million to advance the small island state’s blue economy. Since then, the international non-profit group The Nature Conservancy (TNC) recently unveiled plans to mobilize $ 1.6 billion in funding for global ocean conservation efforts through Blue Bonds, as part of the of a program called “ blue bonds for conservation ”. An innovative fundraising model using philanthropy to save the world’s oceans by providing seed capital.
Circular economy models have become fashionable lately, with this concept dating back to 1976, finally managing to occupy the limelight at European and even national level. The BYTHOS project (http://www.bythos.eu/) has demonstrated in a tangible way how the waste from the bluefin tuna industry, which amounts to thousands of tonnes each year, but also from other waste streams, including fish markets and restaurants, can be a source of biologically active molecules (BAMs), including collagen and fish oils.
Our very fickle existence on this planet is intrinsically linked to the health of our seas.– Alan Deidun
The ongoing GoJelly project (https://gojelly.eu/), funded by the European Commission as part of Horizon 2020, is the perfect poster child of a blue biotechnology project that reflects a marine danger – flowers of jellyfish – in a possible opportunity. For example, within the framework of the project, jellyfish biomass is being tested as an innovative fertilizer for soils, as a source of collagen for cosmetics and as a source of mucus which in turn has been shown to be effective. to trap micro and nanoplastic particles in the water column.
While seeking to unleash the untapped socio-economic assets of the marine domain, we must obviously strive to ensure that this innovative blue growth does not weigh on the environmental assets of the same domain. Designation of effective marine protected areas (MPAs) is one such tool to achieve this onerous goal, with the global community increasing the previous goal of global ocean MPA coverage from 10% to 30% by 2030.
The previous target of 10% coverage by 2020 was missed, and with current levels of global MPA coverage totaling only 7.5%, a real leap forward is needed to meet the new targets. The effective management of MPAs is another white elephant, as the designation of MPAs itself is toothless.
The momentum for designation of MPAs in Malta has been staggering, with our total 18 MPAs currently spanning 35% of our 25 nautical mile fisheries management area, for a total of 4,138 km2, a marine area equivalent to 13 times the land area of the archipelago. The effective management of such a large marine area is the next challenge, as well as raising awareness of the living assets of the same MPAs in order to support their sustainable enjoyment. This is where the CORALLO project (www.corallo-italiamalta.eu) comes in, led by the University of Malta and involving the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) and Heritage Malta, as well as four partners Sicilians.
The project aims to promote biodiversity assets held in three coastal MPAs in Malta, located off the western cliffs and in the northeast of the island by deploying innovative tools (e.g. virtual and augmented reality, game approach, underwater video surveillance, citizen science, and entertainment and video productions for mainstream and social media) at a number of visitor centers operated by Heritage Malta, including the Malta Maritime Museum, emplesaġar Qim and Għar Dalam temples.
In another of her anecdotes, Sylvia Earle succinctly sums up the communication attributes that scientists, including marine scientists, must have when they postulate that “The best scientists and explorers have attributes of children!” They ask questions and have a sense of wonder. They have curiosity. Who, what, why, where, why, when and how! “
As the age-old adage goes, you can’t protect or cherish what you don’t understand or know, and ocean advocates have the task of stimulating the public imagination on the need to protect this great blue space. that licks our ribs. The official kickoff of the United Nations Decade for Ocean Science two days from now (June 1) in Berlin will be the perfect platform to launch a renewed global ocean literacy effort.
Independent journalism costs money. Times of Malta support for the price of a coffee.