Since 2018, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, at the initiative of the United Shipbuilding Corporation and with support from the Roscongress Foundation, has held discussions on the World Ocean. In search for responses to current global challenges, it is critical for the mankind to start systemic and comprehensive study of high seas. We will have to learn how to effectively develop, carefully use and replenish marine wealth for the benefit of future generations.
Earlier this year, on the World Ocean Day that traditionally attracts world public attention to protection of marine ecosystem from anthropogenic impact, the United Shipbuilding Corporation and the Roscongress Foundation held an online session Save the World Ocean: Mission Possible? The current epidemiologic situation did not hinder broad expert discussion of urgent and long-simmering problems, the more so since they have become even more critical during the time of pandemic. It is no coincidence that scientists maintain that ocean depths that contain colossal living resources can become a new “blue pharmacy” for the mankind.
The discussion was participated by the Paris Peace Forum Chairman, General Director of the World Trade Organization (2005-2013) Pascal Lamy; photographer and biologist Cristina Mittermeier; President of the United Shipbuilding Corporation Alexei Rakhmanov; legendary hockey player and a UN Goodwill Ambassador Vyacheslav Fetisov; former President of Costa Rica and a founder of the Antarctica 2020 Project Jose Maria Figueres; an extreme sportsman and a UN Environment Program Goodwill Ambassador Lewis Pugh, as well as Senior Senior High Seas Advisor for the Global Marine and Polar Program of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Kristina Gjerde. The discussion was moderated by Philippe Cousteau Jr., a journalist, scientist and a grandson of the famous French researcher and film director Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
At the online meeting, the experts discussed the condition of the World Ocean, assessed measures and strategies for its conservation and rehabilitation. Special attention of the speakers was focused on the impact of the pandemic on the environment. Summaries of the participants’ presentations are provided below.
This year was supposed to become an important milestone in the effort for saving the oceans. We planned to meet in Lisbon at the UN Ocean Conference, then at the Blue Initiative Conference in Monaco, and finally at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, the agenda of which always includes conservation issues of oceans and the Arctic. Although we had to meet online, it was not a reason to stop the dialogue. We should use our best efforts to make this year really prominent for the cause of the oceans. We should think of how we can exit revitalized from this current crisis, how we can develop collaboration and coexistence with one another more seamlessly.
We should be guided by science in our efforts to save the oceans, and Russia has always been doing so. This year we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the Antarctic continent by the Russian sea explorers Thaddeus Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev. In this context, can we imagine any more favorable time for Russia to emerge in the forefront of fighting for conservation of the oceans, the Arctic and the Antarctic?
Special protective zones are now being established in the ocean, and in 10 years from now they should amount to 30% of its area. This is a very significant issue not also from the standpoint of climate, but also from the standpoint of equality and fight against poverty. Scientist maintain that having conserved 30% of the World Ocean, we will be able to “restart” the ocean ecosystem, fully restore its resources and biological diversity. With this end we should stop unregulated fishing, disposal of plastics into the ocean, use additional means of amelioration. If no measures are taken, in the next five years we will end up with a kilo of plastics per every three kilos of fish caught in the ocean. The mankind exists only thanks to the ocean and should conserve it for future generations!
Effective mining of the World Ocean requires a breakthrough in technologies
We are trying to overcome the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. However, we should appreciate two items: first, the pandemic did not appear by itself. It resulted from relations between Man and Nature. Second, we regretfully live in a vey fragmented world. Decisions made in any one country or a group of countries cannot stop the changing of climate, cannot reverse the degrading of seas and oceans. This is exactly why global measures should be taken throughout the Earth aimed at support and regeneration of water resources, protection of marine ecosystems from human impact. Currently almost 40% of Filipino children are undernourished. We will have to explain to millions of people who feed on water living resources that ocean conservation initiatives are not an attempt to deprive them of their bread or destroy their business. Quite to the contrary, this is a way to make the “blue economy” renewable, so that the sea can rehabilitate itself and keep on further feed and support the population of coastal territories. This is exactly why protection of oceans is protection of economy. For instance, this is the case with fishery, since most fishermen realize that excessive fishing will in the long run destroy their business.
Our planet should be called The Ocean. Life is impossible without the ocean; it is the ocean that makes our world inhabited. This is not just water, this is a broth of microorganisms, a real jungle that produce half of the oxygen we need to survive. Besides, the ocean is an economic growth driver, a source of food and earnings for millions of people. Regretfully, humans do not tend to think about it. At present, we still have an opportunity to support and conserve the incredible diversity of marine species. Carlos Duarte, one of the best-known ocean scientists, has proposed a large-scale ocean rehabilitation program. According to him, it is critical to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to allow the growth of world average temperature by no more than one and a half per cent. Climate change is the main obstacle for restoring marine ecosystems. We can still hand over to our grandsons a healthy ocean, and I will do my best to achieve this goal.
We are working at various programs. In 2010 the UN articulated goals for sustainable development. I am working at developing a new document based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The new document will help to protect ecosystems and marine diversity in the zones that do not fall into any national jurisdiction; such zones amount to 60% of the total area of the oceans. These ideas were first voiced in 2002, however since that time there has appeared no platform for international cooperation so much required to achieve such goals.
While thoroughly monitoring the changing of climate, we develop solutions that can compensate this process. For instance, reasonable transfer of infrastructure facilities from onshore to offshore can be a response to the growth of the World Ocean level. The mankind has been engaged in construction of artificial islands, however advanced technologies allow us to do so to a whole new standard. We can build high-technology floating structures of enormous size that can be located at the right time at the right place.
Today the scientific community is facing a challenge of how to move beyond the boundaries of traditional areas, while helping the ocean to survive. We are striving to develop and widely introduce marine facilities that are not detrimental to environment. For example, for comprehensive Arctic studies, the United Shipbuilding Company builds nuclear-powered icebreakers: the safest type of vessels for vulnerable ecosystems of Arctic seas. Russia carries on glorious traditions of the Soviet drifting stations in the Arctic: the Admiralty Shipyards are building a newest self-propelled ice-resistant platform The North Pole for high latitude studies. It will become a reliable home and an up-to-date research laboratory for scientists of the whole world. I would like to invite the colleagues to visit the platform in 2022 when it is completed. Effective mining of the World Ocean requires a breakthrough in development, engineering and construction technologies. And we are prepared for such a breakthrough.
We should be guided by science in our efforts to save the oceans, and Russia has always been doing so
Nowadays we are very vocal about establishment of protective zones in the ocean. Those are something similar to onshore national parks. I believe that the Antarctic continent and the adjacent seas should be made such a zone. To protect biological diversity of the region and make it more resistant to the change of climate, 4 million square kilometers of the ocean should be taken under protection. Recently, a maximal temperature over the whole history of meteorological observations was registered in the Antarctic: +200C. But only 200 years ago there was an entirely different world there; after its discovery by Russian seamen, scores of hunters, fishermen and whalers headed off to the Antarctic. And only later scientists arrived there. Now we realize how destructive a human impact can be for vulnerable polar ecosystems, and we are trying to counter-balance our influence. Decisions that we will be making over the next few years will define not only the life of each individual on our planet, but also the future of all further generations.
Restoration of the world ecology is impossible without involvement of Russia: our country occupies over 17 million square kilometers and possesses vast water and forest resources. Now it is the right time to put aside any political discord and, having united all the available resources, concentrate on solving ecological problem of our common home. We should act today, since tomorrow it will probably be too late.
On behalf of Roscongress, I would like to invite all the participants of our discussion to visit the International Arctic Forum Arctic: The Territory of Dialogue that will be held in St. Petersburg in 2021. There we will finally be able to meet in person and discuss all our successes and all the progress that I am sure we will achieve next year.