UN highlights urgent marine conservation needs, action

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a collective effort among governments, businesses, investors, scientists, and communities "to defend our oceans."

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Sea anemones and a clownfish are pictured in the Wuzhizhou Island's marine ranch in Sanya, south China's Hainan Province, May 17, 2024. (Xinhua/Yang Guanyu)

The United Nations on Friday celebrated World Oceans Day, observed annually on June 8, at its headquarters in New York, focusing on “opening minds, igniting senses, and inspiring possibilities” for global marine life protection.

The event featured a powerful video that echoed the day’s theme, urging immediate action against the complacency of an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement emphasizing the ocean’s crucial role in sustaining life on Earth and highlighted the human-induced problems it faces.

“Climate change is triggering rising seas and threatening the very existence of small island developing states and coastal populations,” Guterres stated.

He also addressed the severe impacts of ocean acidification on coral reefs and how rising sea temperatures have led to extreme weather events. Overfishing and other detrimental practices are accelerating the destruction of the world’s marine ecosystems.

The top UN official called for a collective effort among governments, businesses, investors, scientists, and communities “to defend our oceans.”

Dennis Francis, president of the UN General Assembly, attended the event and shared concerns about the deteriorating condition of the oceans.

He underscored the importance of reversing the damage to this essential resource, stating, “There is so much still to learn about oceans — and, importantly, to reverse the damage being caused to our precious lifeline resource.”

Echoing the UN chief’s call, Francis emphasized the need to redouble efforts to support and advance ocean action, build capacity in small island developing states, and promote innovative financing solutions that drive transformation and scale up resilience.

Both UN leaders emphasized the ocean’s vital role in combating climate change, calling for a joint effort to “course correct — and recommit to sustainably manage the ocean’s precious resources — so as to ensure their availability intergenerationally.”

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also contributed to the dialogue earlier in the week by releasing a State of the Ocean report, which presses policymakers to consider “the ocean we need for the future we want.”

The report detailed the increasing threats to marine life, noting that ocean warming rates have doubled in the last 20 years and that coastal species are suffocating from reduced oxygen levels.

UNESCO’s report advocates for enhancing ocean literacy to optimize resources, accelerate behavioral change, and improve the implementation of ocean conservation programs and sustainability practices.

During the event, prominent marine biologist and oceanographer Sylvia Earle highlighted the importance of sharing the necessity of ocean protection worldwide, which can catalyze essential actions to preserve both marine and coastal wildlife.

World Oceans Day is an international day that takes place annually on June 8. In December 2008, the UN General Assembly passed a declaration to officially recognize the day. “Awaken New Depths” is the theme for World Oceans Day 2024.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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