World oceans day: The oceans are our future

By: Ali Basit

The World Oceans Day is being organized by the UN every year on 8th June 8th since 2008 to promote global awareness of the benefits that the world can derive from the oceans. Every year on this day, science centers and research institutions, NGOs, communities and governments all around the world used to mobilize millions of people to raise awareness on how to use oceans resources sustainably. The theme for this year’s World Oceans Day is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean”— a call for action to synergize global efforts to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030. The oceans are fundamentally important to every human and all the other living plants and animals. Our ocean sustains us and it is home to more than half of all life on Earth today. The air we breathe and the water we consume, are ultimately linked to the seas. The oceans drives our weather and stabilizes our climate. Yet, we have taken the oceans for granted. Human actions have pushed the species to the brink and impacted on every ocean habitat. We have not understood what the ocean does for us. The consequences of our negligence are: the seas are warming, rising and becoming more acidic. One of the biggest threats to our oceans is man-made pollution. Discarded plastics and other residential waste discharge from pesticides and industrial chemicals eventually find their way into the sea with devastating consequences for marine life and the habitats they depend on. It is estimated that a staggering 80 percent of marine pollution originates on land. Land based pollutants – such as agricultural run-off and nutrients from sewage outflows are contributing to ocean ‘dead zones’ – areas which can no longer sustain life because they have low or zero oxygen. Hence, an important challenge that the world is facing is to understand and better manage the various aspects of oceanic sustainability, ranging from sustainable fisheries to ecosystem. Being an important maritime state in the Indian Ocean region, Pakistan is progressively apprehending the marvels of the healthy ocean and its linkages with sustainable economic growth. Pakistan is endowed with diversified natural capital with over 1000 kilometers long coastline and an extended continental shelf of 2,90,000 sq. km spreading up to 350 nautical miles into the deep. It is pertinent to note here that the extension in Continental Shelf is the recognition of Pakistan’s Continental Shelf claim under article 76 of UNCLOS in 2015; thus, making Pakistan the first country in North Indian Ocean Region, whose case has been approved by the UN. This extension was granted to Pakistan due the tireless efforts made by Pakistan Navy who fought for the aforementioned claim in the UN to acquire the exclusive rights over the seabed and subsoil for exploration and use of marine resources including energy production. Furthermore, Pakistan’s sea trade route contributes about $66.5 billion dollars to economic growth, accumulates 31% of Pakistan’s GDP. Fish and seafood industry in Pakistan alone has the potential of generating the revenue of more than $1.2 billion. Moreover, Pakistan’s mangrove area, a sixth largest in the world, holds an annual value of about $20 million which can be extracted from mangrove dependent fish species and shrimp industry. But these economic benefits cannot be extracted if the ocean does not remain free from pollution and other detrimental environmental effects. On the event of World Oceans Day, Pakistan Navy re-affirms its commitment for the sustainable usage of oceans while endeavoring to protect the oceans from hazards of marine pollution. Pakistan Navy acknowledges the threats that are eroding the integrity of our waters – pollution, marine invasive species, extreme climatic changes and threats to survival of marine species including unsustainable fishing practices. Pakistan Navy celebrates this year’s World Oceans Day by arranging a number of awareness enhancing activities which included lectures and speech competitions on the theme of the Day. The awareness of masses regarding adverse effects of marine pollution was raised through video clips and display of banners. Moreover, Harbour and Beach Cleaning Campaigns, construction of harbor debris collection boats, banning use of destructive fishing nets, tackling oil pollution at Sea and coordination with industrial community to reduce waste dumping into the sea have been a regular part of Pakistan Navy’s annual activities. Further, close collaboration with Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) and other national and international organizations such as Mangroves for the Future (MFF), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Wide Fund (WWF), have been maintained to undertake numerous environment friendly initiatives and awareness projects. Since 2016, Pakistan Navy planted nearly 7 million mangroves saplings mangroves across the coastal regions in coordination with Sindh and Balochistan forest departments. To sum up, this World Oceans Day requires us to embark upon sustainable innovation techniques to boost our economy as elaborated by Chief of the Naval Staff in his message on World Oceans Day “On this day, let us reaffirm our commitment and resolve for preserving sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources. Pakistan Navy will continue to play an important role in the global and nation efforts to protect and preserve the ocean; mankind’s shared resource for sustenance and prosperity”.