This week a major milestone was achieved in support of our treasured oceans. March 3 -4, 2014, a paramount European conference was held in Brussels, Belgium, specifically in support of the marine world.
The conference was positively referred to as HOPE - Healthy Oceans, Productive Ecosystems. It was attended by avid ocean lovers and ocean professionals alike who were looking to make sure our marine life stays intact. They will all agree that they walked away with many critical facts. Over 400 attendees were present which included 15 EU environment ministers, state representatives, industry professionals and others.
Outstanding and knowledgeable speakers were on hand with a desire to share their expertise. Jackie Alder, Coordinator of the Freshwater & Marine Ecosystems Branch at the United Nations Environment Programme and Anne-Christine Brusendorff who is the General Secretary of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) both conveyed some very revelatory information for the benefit of those involved in the conference.
This entire concept began back in 2008 when MSFD or the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, became adopted in order to protect and maintain our seas and oceans in a sustainable manner. As a direct result, the objective stated to be accomplished by 2020 is to maintain that good environment status of the European seas and oceans.
This year, the active participants came together once again to discuss the progress made. Although remaining optimistic was imperative, this was also a time to discuss any problems and obstacles being encountered and come up with a solution to tackle the issues and make solid improvements.
“The clock is ticking. EU Member States don’t have much time left to achieve “Good Environmental Status” as defined by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. HOPE ended with a clear optimistic message but acknowledged the urgency to take action.”, commented Domino Albert, Manager and New Media Specialist Project AWARE Foundation. “Marine litter was high on the conference agenda. Project AWARE is calling on divers and all water enthusiasts to rise to the marine debris challenge by taking local action and supporting the policy change necessary to prevent and reduce rubbish entering our ocean,” she added. To see more on the marine debris initiative, go to www.projectaware.org/project/marine-debris.
Progress was definitely made when the conference came to a close. The 'Declaration of HOPE' was issued. Both days were equally filled with informative sessions consisting of round-table discussions. Also established during the two-day event was the creation of Marine Litterwatch, a citizen science project to assist in collecting data on the litter that is found strewn on our beaches.
Every single one of us can be an active advocate of the oceans and the preservation and conservation of our precious marine habitat. With conferences such as this one in place, we are well on our way.