Sea turtle and fishes

Highlights and images for 10 April 2024

Barcelona International Convention Centre, Barcelona, Spain

Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO 1

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

In a bright, sunlit Barcelona International Convention Centre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, participants gathered for the first day of the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference.

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), opened the Conference, thanking the region of Catalonia and the city of Barcelona for hosting the event. She mentioned the more than 500 initiatives of the UN Ocean Decade initiated so far and highlighted the Decade’s three goals: understanding, protecting and educating on the Ocean.  

José Maria Neves, President of Cabo Verde, and Ocean Decade Alliance Patron, urged catalyzing the multilateral commitments and partnerships needed to address the threats facing the Ocean, and encouraged the sharing of technology and funding.  

Wavel Ramkalawan, President of Seychelles, and Ocean Decade Alliance Patron, underlined the significance of science in underpinning our decisions and enhancing the quality of our lives.

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco highlighted the principality’s efforts in advancing ocean science and reminded participants that scientific research lies at the heart of the “struggle for truth” that determines our ability to act on ocean-related challenges.

Prince Albert II of Monaco and media

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco

Statements were made by: Jaume Collboni, Mayor of Barcelona; Diana Morant Ripoll, Minister for Science, Innovation and Universities, Spain; and Pere Aragonès, President, Region of Catalonia. They elaborated on the role of cities, national science funding, and regional efforts in advancing the Ocean Decade agenda.

Other high-level speakers included: Cecilie Myrseth, Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy, Norway; Sun Shuxian, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Natural Resources, China; Filimon Manoni, Pacific Ocean Commissioner; Manuel Barange, Assistant Director-General and Director of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO); and Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean.

Two panels addressed the conditions of success for the Ocean Decade. The first panel focused on understanding and managing the Ocean with different forms of knowledge and innovation, stressing the need to consider and teach local and Indigenous knowledge, the importance of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) principle to “leave no one behind” and the need to co-design solutions based on Ocean knowledge. The panel also addressed the use of new technologies to enhance traditional knowledge and initiatives to decarbonize the shipping industry.

The second panel focused on the relationship between ocean science and policy. Topics included: the crucial role of First Nations in combining traditional knowledge and practices with modern governance systems to protect ecosystems; the need to balance use and protection of the Ocean; the importance of Integrated Ocean Management approaches; the role of fundamental and people-centered science; and examples of coastal communities’ needs and knowledge driving policy solutions.

Jack Thatcher, coastal navigator

Jack Thatcher, Māori Master Navigator

Special interventions were made by Geng Tao, Vice Mayor of Qingdao City Council, China, and Ambassador Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, Presidential Envoy for the 2025 UN Ocean Conference in France.

In the afternoon, a thematic session focused on Ocean Decade Challenges 1, 2 and 5: “Understand and Beat Marine Pollution,” “Protect and Restore Ecosystem and Biodiversity,” and “Unlock Ocean-Based Solutions to Climate Change,” respectively. The session addressed the science and solutions needed for a clean, healthy and resilient Ocean, stressing, among others: how new activities can encourage knowledge sharing as well as inspire solutions; and the importance of improving science communication to policymakers and local authorities.

The plenary then broke out in parallel sessions to address these three Ocean Decade Challenges. Participants heard reports from the respective Working Groups that had prepared draft Vision 2030 white papers for each Challenge and presentations from scientists on various related topics. They then engaged in discussions to help improve the draft white papers.

In the evening, “A Concert for the Ocean” was performed by UNESCO Artist for Peace Naseer Shamma, playing the oud, accompanied by The Barcelona Guitar Trio. The day concluded with an evening reception.

Naseer Shamma, Oud Maestro and UNESCO Artist for Peace

Naseer Shamma, Oud Maestro and UNESCO Artist for Peace

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All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For the Ocean Decade Conference, use: Photo by IISD/ENB | Mika Schroder