"We have a moral obligation to ensure that Goal 14 of the United Nations is accurately completed because that is the only way to preserve the oceans". The statement is from the United Nations General Secretariat for the Oceans special envoy, Peter Thomson, and he repeated it on several occasions during the 8th World Water Forum.

The so-called SDG14 is one of the 17 objectives for Sustainable Development of the UN Agenda 2030, ratified by 150 countries in 2017 during the Conference on the Oceans, when Thomson himself presided over the 71st General Assembly of the United Nations. And the SDG14 is exactly the goal dedicated to the preservation of the seas.

In an interview with the Agência Brasil, Thomson recalled that among the measures proposed by SDG 14 are the significant reduction of marine pollution of all kinds, especially that derived from terrestrial activities, including marine debris and nutrient-based pollution, the protection of marine ecosystems and coastal areas and reducing the impact of ocean acidification that is among the major threats to marine life.

"Everyone needs to recognize that the oceans have been damaged by human activity and we must do something to reverse this destruction."

He highlights the need for concrete actions to achieve the Goal and recalls that after the conference in June last year, which involved 193 countries, 1,400 voluntary commitments were offered by governments, civil society, academic and research institutions, the scientific community and the private sector.

"These commitments propose solutions to problems such as acidification of the seas, prohibition of predatory fishing and subsidies for this activity, expansion of marine science, protection of ecosystems. Therefore, small countries such as those in the Pacific islands and other developing countries allied to developed countries can jointly implement actions for the consumption and sustainable use of ocean resources, "he said.

Thomson tells there are already nine communities with actions to preserve the oceans, which are described on the conference website and where those voluntary commitments that are already being implemented can be found. "Join these communities of actions for the oceans and you will have the opportunity to do something to change the situation of the seas," he asks.

But the special envoy admits that the biggest obstacle to the change of attitude towards the oceans is the of society lack of will. "Because if we have the willpower we can unite science, governments, the business world, the finance, and solve all the problems we have in relation to the oceans. And we can do this".

Climate change

Born in an archipelago, the Fiji Islands, Peter Thomson acknowledges that the greatest damage to the oceans has been caused by climate change which, among other consequences, is raising sea levels mainly due to the greenhouse effect.

"Greenhouse gases warm the seas causing a reduction in marine life, acidification of the waters. Greenhouse gases reduce the oxygen level of the oceans, making survival of marine life impossible. So climate change is the worst problem we have in the oceans".

To avoid a catastrophe, the plan is simple: comply with ODS 14 that has clear goals: "For example, removing this horrible predatory fishing and this is something achievable,the governments should just have the political will to do so," he said, remembering that many countries still subsidize fleets of vessels for illegal fishing: "Can you believe that?"

He praised Brazil's decision to protect the coastline. The country extended the protection of marine areas with the creation of two federal conservation units in the states of Pernambuco and Espírito Santo. Currently, 1.5% of marine areas are protected. With the new units, the percentage will be increased to 25%.

Optimistic, Peter Thomson says that humans needs to think about the legacy for future generations and believes in the recovery of the oceans if we take care of them: "One of the things that make me believe this is that the oceans are generous and forgive."

*Source: Brazil Agency