Focused on solutions and collaboration to ensure Healthy Oceans and Productive Ecosystems for future generations, the HOPE Conference, on 3-4 March 2014 in Brussels, called for urgent action to better protect the ocean and, in particular, to combat the ever increasing amount of marine debris.
HOPE brought together a range of people working to enhance the quality of the marine environment and provided us with the opportunity to discuss challenges and progress towards achieving “Good Environmental Status” (GES) in EU Member States by 2020.
Janez Potočnik, the European Commissioner for the Environment, reminded all attendees, including representatives of EU Member States present at the conference, that there’s not much time left to reach the goals of healthy oceans by 2020.
Through the Declaration of HOPE, released at the end of the conference, the European Commission calls on all the participants to combine hope with urgent action and urges political leaders to turn words into action.
As a global non-profit organisation working towards a return to a clean, healthy ocean we fully support the HOPE Declaration. Project AWARE was proud to represent the global environmental voice of the dive community at this milestone conference where scuba divers were often acknowledged for their active role as ocean advocates.
As part of the process of finding solutions to reduce the increasing amount of marine litter, the EU Commission launched an online public consultation at the end of last year. Project AWARE called on the dive community to share its opinion on how the EU can best tackle marine litter. We also submitted an organizational response sharing our underwater perspective to the problem with the hope that our collective voice will contribute to establishing specific measures that will help tackle the problem of marine litter at national and international levels.
During the opening session of the conference, Paul Rose, HOPE panellist and one of the world’s most experienced science divers, shared some of his experiences from the “front line” to highlight the gap between people involved in marine protection and the general public. Paul called for an ocean constituency and highlighted the importance of bringing the ocean to people’s homes through success stories such as Marine Protected Areas to rally support for ocean conservation that is so critically and urgently needed.
“Not everybody get the full scale of the problems faced by our ocean. We need to build a true ocean constituency” said Paul Rose during his inspiring “Wake-Up Call” panel intervention.
Throughout the conference a clear emphasis was put on the necessity to overcome gaps in marine knowledge and increase collaboration between all stakeholders. Paul Rose’s message was echoed by Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, who encouraged citizen participation and called on all EU Citizen to take part in the EU-wide campaign "Let's Cleanup Europe". Citizen science projects such as Dive Against Debris clearly contributes to providing the data and information so critical to supporting the policy change necessary to prevent and reduce rubbish entering our ocean. These initiatives are deeply valued by EU representatives.
Through awareness and education Project AWARE contributes to building an ocean constituency and helping gather sufficient marine debris data to work towards finding solutions.
Inspired by the message of hope delivered by the conference, we continue to mobilize the world's divers into a global force to protect our ocean planet. There’s hope for the ocean but hope needs urgent action. Let’s dive into action! Let’s Dive Against Debris!