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Marine pollution: in Lisbon, experts push for stronger international commitment

The amount of marine litter and plastic litter is increasing rapidly around the world according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and if no significant action is taken, emissions of plastics into aquatic ecosystems are expected to almost triple. here 2040.

A group of experts met in Lisbon to seek solutions.

The urgency of the marine pollution crisis

Pollution affects several sectors and is closely linked to other planetary crises such as climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Tackling marine pollution, a global challenge, requires a global approach to mitigate it, experts noted.

“Marine pollution, including ship discharges, abandoned fishing gear, remains a concern. Plastics and microplastics from many sources, untreated sewage and nutrient runoff are still polluting the oceans,” a statement read.

One of these experts, Janis Searles Jones, Managing Director of the Ocean Conservancy in Portland, USA, stressed that “life under water is essential to life above water”. , and insisted on the urgency of reducing single-use plastic and acting more quickly.

The distress of a surfer

On the sidelines of the conference, the United Nations agency for education and science (UNESCO) named Maya Gabeira, giant wave surfer and holder of two world records, “champion of the ocean and of youth”.

The Brazilian athlete said that even in her most remote surf spot – which she can only reach after 55 hours of travel – she finds plastic around her when she takes to the waves.

Ana Caterina

Maya Gabeira is a giant wave surfer, holder in 2020 of the world record for the largest wave surfed by a woman.

“It’s very sad when you’re surfing and the tide turns and all that plastic moves towards you. We try to create space for ourselves, or put what we can in our pockets to put in the first recycling bin, but we all know that it’s like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon and that is not the solution. »

Addressing UN News, Ms Gabeira reiterated the importance of education on ways to decrease her footprint – using less plastic, but also using her own platform to “scream as loudly” as possible to encourage change. Ms. Gabeira added that each of us can make a difference.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, for her part, reiterated the commitment to integrate ocean education into the national curricula of all Member States by 2025.

Changes in consumption patterns are needed

According to the most recent data from UNEP, and despite current initiatives and efforts, the amount of plastic in the ocean is now estimated at between 75 and 199 million tonnes.

The reasons for this are the increase in population, changes in consumption patterns as well as greater accessibility to the consumer society.

At the same time, the resources and technical capacities necessary for sound waste management are limited, especially since some countries consider that other sectors of public expenditure are priorities.

“All of these pollution challenges require knowledge sharing,” the experts warned.

For Brazilian fashion designer and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Oskar Metsavaht, “fashion is also a means of changing attitudes and behaviors, like any other form of art, such as cinema and music”, he told UN News.

Microplastics from the fashion sector

The breakdown of plastics in the ocean, mainly in the form of microplastics (less than 5 mm in diameter) and chemical additives is a major concern, knowing that they are toxic and dangerous for the health of humans, wild animals, as well as for ecosystems.

” The youth [a besoin] not only to question the system, but to change its consumption behaviors, drawing inspiration from nature, sustainable development, oceans and forests,” added the creator.

“New fabrics, new materials and new technologies must be implemented in a sustainable way. We still need to find a solution to prevent the fashion industry from producing microplastics,” said Metsavaht.

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