Our Oceans Conference Reminds Us of the Ocean’s Incredible Value

Group of speakers on stage at Our Oceans Conference

“An Ocean of Potential” was the tagline at this year’s Our Ocean conference in Greece on April 15-17. The phrase encompasses the breadth of possibilities that the ocean holds for us. It also encapsulates EDF’s approach to supporting climate-resilient fisheries and oceans. What do we mean when we say that there is “an ocean of potential”? 

The Many Gifts of Our Ocean

The ocean is 71% of the Earth’s surface. It is not only home to a vast array of biodiversity—with many species yet to be discovered—it is also an essential resource supporting the lives and livelihoods of many people. Aquatic foods, which include finfish, bivalves, and aquatic plants, provide vital nutrients—calcium, iodine, omega-3 fatty acids, and more—that are not easily replaceable. Over 3 billion people rely on fish for their animal protein intake.  

The vital resources the ocean provides are especially significant to small island nations and developing nations, who will bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change. Small-scale fisheries support the livelihoods of over 500 million people, with an annual revenue of nearly $77 billion. It’s also worth noting that half of small-scale fisheries workers are women.  

The ocean provides more than food and livelihoods. It is a key ally in the fight against climate change, as a major carbon sink. Although, there is still much to be understood about these blue carbon pathways, as Kristin Kleisner and Rod Fujita discuss in previous EDFish blog post. On the other hand, climate change also poses a great risk to the ocean. For example, rising ocean temperatures are expected to contribute to coral reef die-offs, and fish stocks are expected to shift.  

At times it can seem like these issues are as large as the ocean itself, but we know there is hope. At EDF, we are supporting a range of efforts that empower local communities to develop and embrace innovative and impactful solutions.  

A Historic Voyage Assesses Cuba’s Coral Reefs

One example comes from Cuba, where group of Cuban scientists embarked on an unprecedented voyage, supported by several organizations including EDF, covered 1,960 nautical miles of coastline in two months. The voyage, known as “Bojeo A Cuba”—“bojeo” being the Spanish word for circumnavigating an island, assessed the health and resilience of the island’s coral reef ecosystems and other marine life populations in the face of warming ocean waters.  

These reefs are especially important because they are some of the world’s most climate resilient reefs, and they provide ideal conditions to explore ways to rebuild and preserve coral that can offer hope worldwide.  

The team collected 396 hours of underwater video and 16,000 photos as part of the journey, which is being used to raise public awareness and engage Cuban and international communities in marine conservation. The research, which is currently being analyzed and evaluated, offers crucial insights to guide research, policy, and conservation efforts, not only for Cuba but for marine ecosystems globally. 

Partnering with Fishers to Improve Ocean Data

Data gaps are, unfortunately, the norm around almost every coastline in the world, which leaves prediction systems unequipped to provide the most accurate data. This lack of information can have tragic consequences in the cases of storm prediction.  

EDF and its partners are using cutting-edge technology to equip fishers around the world to collect critically needed data through the Fishing Vessel Ocean Observing Network (FVON), which includes a collection of scientists, academics, EDF, and the Ocean Data Network. Fishing vessels operating in coastal waters are uniquely positioned to address these data gaps in waters shallower than 1,000 meters, where these gaps are most prevalent. That’s why FVON works directly with fishers to employ low-cost sensors on their vessels and ultimately shift the current paradigm around ocean observing.  

When FVON launched in 2022, it was the only global organizing force to use fishing vessels and gear to collect much-needed ocean data. Its revolutionary efforts resulted in its designation as an action of the UN Decade of Ocean Science. FVON is currently supporting the development of two fishing vessel observing networks in Ghana and the Bahamas. The goal is to establish many more networks in the future. 

Seeing the Potential

While we are closing many knowledge gaps when it comes to our ocean, there is still great potential for improving our understanding and translating that knowledge into tangible solutions. The unknown may seem daunting, but at the Our Ocean conference, we saw attendees embrace the ocean of potential and take inspiration from the many great efforts going on around the world. We can’t wait to see continued progress of the solutions presented and are enthusiastically moving forward with progress in our oceans work at EDF. 

This entry was posted in Climate Change, Global Fisheries. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.