The marine realm is the largest component of the Earth’s system that stabilizes climate and support life on Earth and human well-being.
In 2002, the UN General Assembly prioritised actions to enhance protection of the worldwide marine environment and to improve the scientific understanding and assessment of marine and coastal ecosystems for management purposes.
In response to the increasing concerns in relation to the state of Europe’s oceans and seas the EU established the EU Habitats Directive (1992), the Water Framework Directive (2000) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2006). The need for such policies stems from the economic, social, and environmental importance of the seas in Europe; the vision is that of a Europe with a dynamic ocean economy in harmony with the marine environment supported by excellence in ocean science (COM(2005)504, Brussels 24-10-2005).
In 2016, the OECD recognised that growth prospects for the ocean economy and its potential for employment creation will be successful only if ocean health is duly preserved (The Ocean Economy in 2030, OECD 2016).
The OECD’s statement is aligned with the emerging «One Ocean – One Health» paradigm: all human, animal and environmental well-being is connected and by working to improve these areas together, a healthier world can be established; as such, research and conservation programmes should study marine life in the context of their environment and connections to humanity..
The global integrated assessment of the state of the marine environment (IOC-UNESCO First World Ocean Assessment; 2016) showed that today’s oceans are seriously degraded. Moreover, since climate change, global population growth and multiple environmental stressors will have significant impacts over the coming decades, adaptation strategies and science-informed policy responses are urgently needed. Thus, the UN recently proclaimed the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 to support efforts to reverse the decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework to ensure that ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development.
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