Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity “Marine Biodiversity”, 22 May 2012
Sustainability is the front line of the 21st century. Preserving biological diversity, especially marine biodiversity, is essential in this struggle. The ocean is what makes our planet live and breathe. It must be preserved.
The planet is under pressure. Marine biodiversity faces rising threats. By the year 2100, without significant changes, more than half of the world’s marine species may stand on the brink of extinction. Threats come from all sides – from climate change, habitat modification and destruction, ocean acidification, anoxia due to massive use of fertilizers in agriculture, invasions by non-native species, and the over-exploitation of living resources.
To protect it, we must first better understand marine biodiversity. This is the role of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, and specifically the Ocean Biogeographic Information System, part of the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange. Building on a decade-long census of marine life, these powerful tools provide quantitative baselines of biodiversity at the regional and global level. Good data is essential for good policy.
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission works with States to conserve and use sustainably biological biodiversity in all marine areas. It is providing the scientific basis for a global inventory of ecologically and biologically significant marine areas in need of protection. This work is moving ahead with UNESCO’s network of World Heritage marine sites, which represent in surface area one third of all marine protected areas. It is undertaken also with the marine and coastal biosphere reserves under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, to promote the use of ecosystem-based approaches and marine spatial planning. UNESCO is committed also to supporting the contribution of local and indigenous knowledge to the conservation of marine biodiversity, including for small island areas.
UNESCO is working to make Rio+20 a success. Preserving biological diversity lies at the heart of the new vision of sustainable development that the world needs from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission led the elaboration of the Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability, an interagency report with recommendations for a transition to a Blue/Green Economy. UNESCO is deeply involved in the Living Ocean and Coast: EXPO 2012 Yeosu, Korea, to raise awareness on ocean issues and solutions. The Organization has been deeply engaged also with the creation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a vital platform for action to protect biodiversity.
Marine biodiversity is essential for life on earth. We must act today to protect it for the future. This is our message for the 2012 International Day for Biological Diversity.