Background Image

‘A Brave New Ocean’: inspiring the start of the Ocean Decade

Date: 11 February 2021

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) kicked off the start of the Ocean Decade (2021-2030) with ‘A Brave New Ocean’, a virtual event that brought together ocean experts and leaders from around the world to highlight the immense challenges and opportunities that ocean knowledge can offer humanity to build a better and stronger post-pandemic world.

IOC-UNESCO has been tasked by the UN General Assembly with coordinating its crucial 10-year global initiative to transform how we generate and use ocean knowledge for sustainable development.

This is one of the most important decades of the century. The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere has revealed alarming trends and overwhelming evidence of the far-reaching consequences if the world does not come together and make choices for a healthier ocean which is critical for the future of the planet. From the equator to the poles, melting ice caps and rising sea levels, ocean warming, extreme weather events, ocean acidification and other processes are disrupting marine ecosystems and life on this planet as we know it.

“The COVID-19 crisis must be the start of a global wake-up call. We must reforge our relationship with nature and the living world. We also need to reinvent our relationship with the oceans. It is this revolution that we wish to bring about with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development which I am delighted to be launching as we begin 2021.”
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

Despite the value and state of our oceans, ocean research so crucially important, is underfunded. The year 2021 begins a hopeful and ambitious super decade for the ocean: the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), the “Ocean Decade”. This unique initiative will mobilize the global ocean community around a transformative research agenda that delivers much needed knowledge led solutions for achieving a healthy and sustainable ocean.

Over the next ten years, a wide range of Decade Actions, driven by diverse partners around the world, will be implemented to meet ten Decade Challenges that represent the most pressing and immediate needs for ocean research, capacity development, and the infrastructure and tools needed to support generation and use of ocean knowledge to create better policy, develop innovative solutions for sustainable development, and incite behavior change.

The ultimate objective is to launch a revolution on how we generate and use ocean knowledge for the benefit of humankind while supporting the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in achieving transformative change for people and the planet.

“The Ocean Decade will pull together great minds and resources. This is the right moment to reset and refocus to be sure we move forward in a more sustainable way and reestablish this incredibly important, yet fragile relationship we have with nature and our ocean.”
H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco

A Brave New Ocean’ gave global leaders, philanthropists, heads of United Nations agencies, sports personalities, leading scientists, and energetic young activists from every corner of the planet a chance to send an urgent message to the world about the critical role the ocean should play in shaping the future of the entire planet and pulling countries out of the current health and economic crisis.

“Today, we launch the UN Decade on Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to begin an ocean science revolution that restores the ocean’s ability to nurture humanity for current and future generations. Together, we will build ‘A Brave New Ocean’.”
H.E. António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations.

The event, which featured a number of founding members of the Ocean Decade Alliance including H.E. Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta President of Kenya, H.E. Erna Solberg Prime Minister of Norway, H.R.H. Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco and H.E. Hon. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa of Portugal, was a celebration of some exceptional achievements so far in identifying ways a healthy, resilient ocean can contribute to a blue post-pandemic recovery. Philanthropic institutions, like the Schmidt Ocean Institute and the Bertarelli Foundation, are some of the strongest Ocean Decade advocates. The Schmidt Ocean Institute research vessel Falkor has been collecting ocean data during a deep-sea mapping expedition off the Coral Sea Marine Park in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to contribute to the Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 initiative. This ambitious initiative aims to completely map the global ocean floor by the year 2030.

“Although we are focusing on the ocean today, the UN Sustainable Development Goals s ask us to make a connection between the land and the sea. I welcome this Ocean Decade as an extraordinary opportunity for the ocean community to come together and elevate our appreciation of everything the ocean provides for humanity and to stimulate greater effort to explore, discover and understand ocean systems.”
Wendy Schmidt, President and Co-Founder, The Schmidt Family Foundation and Co-Founder, Schmidt Ocean Institute, Schmidt Futures, 11th Hour Racing 

Building a ‘A Brave New Ocean’ by 2030 will require a transdisciplinary approach that works across all sectors, geographies and disciplines in ocean science. This is why partnerships and collaboration will be at the heart of the Ocean Decade over the next ten years, including through engagement mechanisms like the Global Stakeholder Forum which will be rolled out over the next months. National and regional committees and groups are also already emerging, as are courageous ocean champions like Vendee Globe Race Skippers Alexia Barrier and Boris Herrmann, and professional surfer Maya Gabeira, who are on the frontline of climate change and bear witness to the daily impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems.

“The oceans are fragile. I worry more and more when I see the changes. How much less fish and life I see, how I see corals changing colour and fishermen coming back with not much of a catch. I know we are responsible for this. We must communicate and let others know what is happening. This is our world. We all need and must care for the ocean.”
Maya Gabeira, Big Wave Surfer, 2x World Record Holder and Oceana Ambassador

The Ocean Decade is more than pure science. It will include valuable knowledge which indigenous communities have to share, those who are often at the greatest risk and stand to lose the most if the world does not focus efforts on a sustainable, and above all, equitable blue recovery.

“Science for understanding the earth, nature and oceans is not just about the graphs and data. It’s also about understanding the stories, human connection and emotions for why these places are so important. This is what we can learn from indigenous peoples, whether they be navigators, hunters or trackers.”
Lehua Kamalu, Voyaging Director, Polynesian Voyaging Society

Future generations, which also have a great stake in the future of our ocean, are already actively engaged in Ocean Decade efforts and showed up in force during “A Brave New Ocean” to send the world an important message.

“My advice during this Decade of Ocean Science is that all ages must act. So, when an opportunity appears before you, grab it and take action!”
Catarina Lorenzo, Heirs to our Oceans, Youth representative - Ocean Decade (13 years old)

Are you ready to join this global movement for a sustainable, equitable blue recovery? Find out here how:

Watch: ‘A Brave New Ocean’