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Since its inception in 2008, United Nations World Oceans Day (8 June) has celebrated the ocean and its importance to the planet and our lives, while raising awareness about the many threats it faces. This year, the UN World Oceans Day celebration took place as a virtual event produced in partnership with Oceanic Global. As a proud member of the 2020 Friends of World Oceans Day Group and a Partner of the UN World Oceans Day (WOD) website, Peace Boat organized over a period of two weeks multiple online events, interviews, film screenings and discussions with various partner organizations working towards a sustainable ocean. The theme of UN World Oceans Day 2020 was “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean” and in his opening remarks for the June 8 event, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres said, “As we work to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, let us all come together, to promote ocean science and the innovations that will save the lifeblood of our planet”. 

In keeping with the theme of innovation, Peace Boat’s Ecoship was a feature in many of the events organized with partners. One such event, in collaboration with Sea Ahead and Blue-Tech, focused on the decarbonization of the maritime industry. Mark Huang from Sea Ahead set the scene with a brief overview of the current situation in the shipping industry including new regulations. Nikos Petrakakos from Ursus Maritime Capital, a ship finance firm focused on “energy efficiency and environmental solutions”, spoke about the urgent need for innovation in the shipping sector and the barriers and challenges to it. Takahashi Maho of Peace Boat Ecoship presented Ecoship and said that it would have zero emissions in port and the lowest emissions possible at sea. Peace Boat also co-hosted an earlier session with Sea Ahead and Blue-Tech for World Oceans Day on innovations in Aquaculture.

Peace Boat was honored to be able to co-organize a “Visionary Conversation” on “Innovative Ocean Habitats” with the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center, the Blue Planet Foundation, Coral Vita and the PangeaSeed Foundation. Emilie McGlone of Peace Boat US introduced Peace Boat as an Innovative Ocean Habitat with its onboard community, safe space for dialogue and peacebuilding. The Ecoship will be the next physical innovation featuring renewable energy, closed waste and water systems. Fabien Cousteau spoke about his family’s connection to the ocean and quoted his grandfather, Jaques Yves Cousteau “People protect what they love”. He introduced two of his main projects: Proteus, an underwater habitat and marine laboratory and Mission 31, the world’s only underwater laboratory which enables longer periods of ocean research. Sam Teicher and Gator Halpern of Coral Vita introduced their project in the Bahamas to save coral reefs, particularly after the hurricane damage. Akira Biondo and Tre Packard of PangeaSeed Foundation focused on the use of art to raise awareness on issues including ocean acidification, pollution and climate change. Henk Rogers explained how he founded the Blue Planet Foundation and its main projects including sustainable energy in Hawaii. In the closing remarks, he made the point that “two main problems, fossil energy and climate change, have to be resolved. Whatever we do locally can’t have an effect if we don’t resolve these two problems”.

Having become a member of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification (OA Alliance) earlier this year, Peace Boat was delighted to co-host an event for World Oceans week together on innovative solutions for the oceans.  Ocean acidification refers to a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. These changes in ocean chemistry have a profound impact on sea life including coral bleaching. In an online webinar, Jessie Turner, Project Coordinator at the OA Alliance,  introduced the network and its three main goals; elevating urgency and ambition for climate action; integrating ocean into climate commitments and translating knowledge into policy. The webinar focused on innovative and inclusive actions that are helping local communities and regions including developing predictive forecasting models and local monitoring that can inform adaptation responses. Alexis Valauri-Orton, Ocean Acidification Program Manager at the Ocean Foundation described ocean acidification as a “global problem, but without a global data set to understand the issue properly”. Dr Wiley Evans, Ocean Acidification Program Manager at the Hakai Institute spoke about engaging passenger ferries and other cruise vessels to monitor for changing ocean conditions. The session ended with closing remarks from Emile McGlone, Director of Peace Boat US, showcasing Ecoship as a potential means for mitigating ocean acidification by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how the ship can be used as a venue for marine research and testing to support data collection, and further study of the oceans along the routes of the global voyages.  

With all World Ocean Day events being held online with the ongoing pandemic, Restore Coral invited Laval Virtual to host a “real virtual reality conference” for UN World Oceans Day and showcase the potential of immersive technologies for such events. The Ocean Innovation Hub, co-organized by Restore Coral and Peace Boat, and in collaboration with over 40 partner organizations working on ocean protection was the grand finale to Peace Boat’s two weeks of events. In partnership with leaders in the ocean community, the events in the Hub shed light on innovations from around the globe in areas of need that are both promising and proven, ones that instil optimism, and ones that have demonstrated the ability to scale effectively. Peace Boat hosted a session to introduce Ecoship and innovative ideas for the oceans, such as Blue Planet Energy by Henk Rogers, a company that is truly committed to a 100% renewable energy future. The full-day experience with over 300 participants included discussions, films, music and photography exhibitions about the world’s oceans. Participants could navigate the online conference with an avatar, walking around the conference rooms, meeting rooms and exhibitions as they chose. The main events on the virtual stage were also live-streamed to reach an even larger audience.

The events around World Oceans Day were organized thanks to the collaboration and support of many different partners. Every speaker emphasized the importance of global cooperation stressing the fact that we are dealing with the global problem and we need global solutions. Importance was given in presentations and interventions to scientific studies and scientific research reflecting the vital role that science plays in ocean conservation. Peace Boat was also delighted to see the role played by youth in the programming for World Oceans Day.