COP15 calls for global collaboration to save marine life


COP15 aims to generate collaboration between nations to accelerate ocean observation in a bid to protect marine life.

COP15 will aim to create a working group as part of the Global Biodiversity Framework to study the oceans with support from the IOC/UNESCO Global Ocean Observing System programme.  

“We need to learn from what is happening with our coral reefs. I hope countries will see that even though they may not agree with each other on some details, they can cooperate for common goals,” said David Obura, wildlife biologist and director of CORDIO East Africa

Obura delivered a keynote speech at the Conference’s official ocean-themed event on 16 December, organized by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC/UNESCO

Since 2012, the Global Ocean Observing System has been working to coordinate delivery of ocean data around 12 internationally agreed biological Essential Ocean Variables, or key measurements to describe the state of marine biodiversity, from microbes to fish and marine mammals. This system and the international expertise it brings together are ready to assist nations in delivering on the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Obura is a member of the Global Ocean Observing System’s Biology and Ecosystems Panel, which has been working on building global marine biodiversity monitoring networks that would help nations monitor their progress towards biodiversity targets. “Data is much more useful when it’s combined. Having the monitoring networks and then embedding those in a global system that allows data sharing and collaboration is really critical now,” he says. 

Technological advances have the potential to revolutionise marine biodiversity observations. “The new opportunity is environmental DNA – or eDNA – and that shows promise,” says Paul Snelgrove, associate scientific director at Ocean Frontiers Institute and another key speaker at the upcoming ocean-themed event at the UN Biodiversity Conference.

“We now know the deep sea is extraordinarily species rich, to the surprise of ecologists in the 1960s who had previously thought it was a relatively species poor environment. In addition, it is by far the most pervasive and undersampled ecosystem on the planet,” notes Snelgrove. 

Pressures on the deep sea are increasing together with a growing interest in deep-sea mining. To gauge potential environmental threat autonomous underwater vehicles should roam the ocean and collect data using various sensors. The eDNA sensors would increase the amount of data on marine biodiversity by detecting genetic material of different organisms in the water.

As technology rapidly advances, a real data revolution is right around the corner. Collaboration between nations to improve the data and the access to it will be key to monitor progress towards biodiversity targets in the CBD post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. A technical working group on ocean observation would be the first big step, and the Global Ocean Observing System is keen to help nations through coordination, capacity development, and growing the use of effective observing methods.

“Knowledge is power. It is what helps us make wise decisions,” affirms Paul Snelgrove. Let’s hope that COP15 will help nations unite in order to improve our global knowledge on marine biodiversity and move to science-based decision making. We must observe the ocean as if life depends on it – because it really does.”

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