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There is still time to make 2020 a pivotal year for the the world’s oceans

This blog post is written by Anna Zivian, Co-chair of Future Earth’s Ocean Knowledge-Action Network

Monday, June 8, 2020 is World Oceans Day. With the unprecedented global events brought about by COVID-19 and the fight against racism, there is little doubt that this is a year of great change, opportunity, and awakening for many.

Although the year 2020 was meant to be a pivotal year for the ocean with the launch of the second United  Nation World Ocean Conference  in Lisbon, which has now been postponed, Future Earth’s Ocean Knowledge-Action Network (Ocean KAN) is working to bring diverse sectors and research fields together to turn knowledge into action for the ocean and the communities that rely on it.

To mark this year’s World Oceans Day, we are pleased to support the launch of the digital engagement platform #VirtualBlueDecade. This collaborative initiative is supported by various young ocean professionals and ocean organizations from around the globe and aims to bring the ocean, biodiversity, and climate action communities together. #VirtualBlueDecade is hosting three online events from different ocean basins on World Oceans Day.

As we know, our ocean, seas, and coasts are coming under increasing pressures from anthropogenic stressors including climate change and  plastic pollution. Marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, are collapsing from temperature increases and ocean acidification, and marine species, from polar bears to sea horses to sharks to whales, are under threat. Large areas are now ‘dead zones’ due to deoxygenation. Coastal communities, especially frontline, historically underrepresented, and vulnerable communities, are facing accelerating sea level rise and shifting fisheries.

But we are coming together as ocean lovers to address these issues. The second World Ocean Assessment, to be delivered in December 2020, focuses on establishing trends in the marine environment with relevance to global reporting needs, such as those associated with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 2021 will see the beginning of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, a rallying call for scientists, coastal communities, governments, ocean users, civil society, and others to come together to co-produce knowledge, co-design policies, and co-develop and implement solutions.

Some of the scientific challenges include: (i) understanding of interaction among diversity and ecosystem processes, structure and function; (ii) ecosystem shifts, biodiversity and habitat loss; (iii) restoration; (iv) sustainability strategies for human activities in the ocean, including the assessment of ocean health; (v) cumulative human impacts and climate change, as drivers of shifts; and (vi) marine conservation. Major challenges of governance and social priorities include: (i) meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, (ii) incorporating new methods for developing policy frameworks, (iii) implementing climate-ready Marine Spatial Planning and MPAs, (iv) designing transnational observation strategies, (v) engaging society more effectively in ocean science, policy, and action, (vi) increasing ocean literacy, (vii) honoring and integrating indigenous and local knowledge with western science to inform equitable policies, and (viii) designing and implementing just and equitable solutions that mitigate rather than exacerbate historical inequities in marine conservation and governance at all scales.

The Ocean KAN is working to address these challenges with our global network of ocean researchers and stakeholders. We are also pleased to be working with a group of early career ocean professionals to promote virtual engagement in ocean science, policy, and action, including by supporting the #VirtualBlueDecade. Please go to to register for the events.

The Ocean KAN sends best wishes to all ocean professionals and lovers of the sea on the occasion of the 2020 World Oceans Day.