Press release

Ocean protection: "We have less than 10 years to reverse the trend", warns Audrey Azoulay

At the United Nations Ocean Conference, the Director-General of UNESCO called on the international community to redouble its efforts "to better understand and protect the oceans".
Audrey Azoulay Lisbon Ocean Summit

In Lisbon, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the President of Portugal, and Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya, convened the Ocean Decade Alliance. Established within the framework of the UNESCO-led Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), this forum enables increased international cooperation in ocean research, education and protection.

Thanks to this Alliance, we have already raised 920 million dollars, which is financing around a hundred initiatives. But most of the work remains to be done. The ocean is still too often in the blind spot of public awareness and public policies. We do not understand it and we do not protect it sufficiently. It is urgent that we reverse this trend
UNESCO Director-General
Audrey Azoulay Director-General of UNESCO

Better understanding will lead to better protection

UNESCO's Director-General said the first priority was to "advance our state of knowledge". Oceanographic research accounts for an average of only 2% of national research budgets, while only 21% of the seabed is mapped. Yet this data is essential for understanding currents, and identifying fishery resources and geological hazards. UNESCO is committed to international efforts in this field. It aims to map at least 80% of the seabed by 2030.

The second priority is to better protect the ocean. "This means rapidly increasing the surface area of marine environments benefiting from safeguarding measures," advocated Audrey Azoulay. Thanks to UNESCO's world heritage sites, 20% of the world's blue carbon reserves are already protected: coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds that help limit climate change by storing massive amounts of CO2.

UNESCO also has more than 210,000 km² of biosphere zones: a programme devised in the 1970s, which, at the time, was a pioneering step towards sustainable development, and aims to achieve equilibrium between man and his environment. In the same spirit, the Organization safeguards indigenous traditions and know-how that must be passed on to the younger generations, particularly in the area of sustainable fishing.

Education as the keystone

But for these efforts to succeed and for us to achieve tangible results, we also need to bring the whole of society on board. This is the major role of education, the foundation of UNESCO's mandate
UNESCO Director-General
Audrey Azoulay Director-General of UNESCO

The Organization has set a target for its 193 Member States: that they should all include environmental education in school curricula by 2030. It is also developing global awareness campaigns, such as "Generation Ocean", for which the Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira became the spokesperson on Monday when she was designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

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