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The 2024 UN Ocean Decade Conference lands in Barcelona to set sail to the Ocean Eco-Management.

Barcelona has always played a strategic role in the Mediterranean Basin as for shipping, yachting and sea trade. Not by chance, the Port de Barcelona ranks the Spanish ports for international relations with a great vocation for sustainability while Port Vell is an attractive part of the urban ecosystem merging high-profile harbour services with relevant social and cultural attractions. That is why the 2024 UN Ocean Decade Conference, by the will of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, is about to take place in the capital town of Catalunya from the 10th until the 12th April 2024. Gathering 1,500 participants from scientific research centres, governments, NGOs and the private sector, the event aims to take stock of the situation in order to accelerate a more sustainable management of oceans.

Jordi Valls, Fourth Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, highlighted: « Barcelona has always had strong ties to its Mediterranean identity, and the Sea is a valuable asset for the city. We have a science ecosystem of excellence on an international scale and we must ensure that this research is transformed into innovation and all the opportunities offered by the blue economy so as to respond to the climate emergency and global challenges ».

The Barcelona rendezvous is crucial since it represents the first inspiring live stage where to influence decision makers and the world public opinion within the UN Ocean Decade: 2021 - 2030. A world initiative federating marine experts and Blue Economy stakeholders to provide a fully sustainable future. Ocean preservation is a must in the global agenda to reduce climate change effects and combat marine litter as well as the degradation of biodiversity. However, there are many threats that human impacts are generating on the balance of marine ecosystems.

Diana Morant, Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities of Spain, pointed out: « The 2024 Ocean Decade Conference strengthens Spain’s commitment to the Blue Economy and Sustainable Development of the ocean and, furthermore, it confirms our country’s position in marine sciences ».

What have been the main achievements since the launch of the Ocean Decade? What should be the key areas for action over the next three to five years? These are the questions the Barcelona Summit will try to answer, keep focusing on ‘delivering the science we need for the ocean we want'. The ocean is undoubtedly an inexhaustible source of biodiversity essential for life on Earth, if human activities do not irremediably disturb its equilibrium.

Various roundtables will debate on climate change, food security, sustainable management of biodiversity, sustainable ocean economy, pollution, and natural hazards, in the view of 2023 desired achievements. Managing oceans sustainably requires the development of science-based innovation as well as a bottom-up and multidisciplinary approach. The main Conference programme and the related Satellite Events will investigate the foundations of the new Blue Economy vision.

Many are the challenges that the oceans face, most of which are man-made. Macro (greater than 5mm) and micro (smaller than 5mm) plastics are invading every corner of the ocean, entering the the food chain of all living beings, including us humans.

Removing all discharges of dangerous, toxic, bio accumulative and persistent substances to stop poisoning the sea is prior. Ocean acidification, as an abnormal sea concentration of CO2, is seriously mining the preservation of the marine biodiversity

destroying habitats and diminishing the value of most popular Blue Economy drivers like fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and transports.

Population explosion, overfishing and overexploitation of coastlines are putting a strain the ability of natural species to reproduce. At the same time exotic species are reproducing abnormally in new geographical areas to the detriment of those endemic.

The balance of the oceans is therefore put at risk because all marine species depend on each other. Thus, their capacity their ability to sequester carbon dioxide could decrease drastically affecting the global climate. As a matter of fact, sea level rise, storms, tsunamis or harmful algae are direct consequence of global warming and ice melting.

Coastal communities must therefore equip themselves with natural and more sustainable infrastructure to address new challenges. Notably, mangroves, marshes and seagrasses are playing a vital role for their Blue Carbon service. Hence, the need to preserve them.

Moreover, cross-boarder cooperation is vital. From an informative point of view, operational information and communication therefore need to be increased to monitor ocean health and prevent natural disasters.

The 2024 Barcelona UN Ocean Decade Conference is going to make a good step forward ocean management in global change. Speakers and participants are asked to reiterate the vital role of the oceans in human well-being, trying to involve as many people as possible in acting for the common cause of the Oceans. Stay tuned for the follow-up. ***

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By Maurice Abbati

Journalist; Editor; Communication, Media and Public Relations Specialist

Lecturer and Author in English language of Technical Articles and the Manual: "Communicating the Environment to Save the Planet, a Journey into Eco-Communication" by Springer International Publishing.

Cover page of PhD manual by Maurice Abbati

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