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“Our Ocean” conference in Athens: Governments halve budget for marine protection

Minke whale © caught in a web Adobe Stock / dejavudesigns
Minke whale © caught in a web Adobe Stock / dejavudesigns

While the US agency NOAA declares the fourth global coral bleaching event, government delegates at the "Our Ocean" conference in Athens decide to spend only half as much money on marine conservation.

In mid-April, representatives of governments, environmental organizations, companies, and scientists from 120 countries came together in Athens at the international marine conservation conference "Our Ocean" to mobilize funds for the protection of the world's oceans.
At this year's meeting, investments of 9.4 billion euros (10.1 billion USD) were pledged to save the world's oceans. The European Union wants to provide more than a third of this. A large part of the EU funds is to flow into sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. In addition, measures are planned to combat marine pollution and develop the so-called "blue economy" (the counterpart to the "green economy" on land). The host, Greece, also announced the establishment of two new national parks and a ban on bottom trawling in all marine protected areas by 2030.

Investments for marine protection halved

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakisdes appealed to the participating governments to take the warning signals of the ocean seriously. Nevertheless, only about half of the sum of funds from last year was raised. And this while authorities around the world continue to report new findings on the frightening effects of climate change: The EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service recorded a record increase in sea temperatures last February. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported that coral reefs are experiencing the fourth global mass bleaching event since records began – the second in ten years.

Humpback whale jumps out of the water © Christopher Swann
Humpback whale jumps out of the water © Christopher Swann

Whales and dolphins are massively affected by these consequences, as WDC explains in the report "Whales in Hot Water". Researchers recently pointed out in a new study that humpback whale populations in the North Pacific are shrinking due to food shortages and reduced reproduction. The reason for this is "heat waves" and the resulting effects on the entire ecosystem.

Marine protection soon on the sidelines in Germany as well?

In Germany, too, the funds for climate protection have been significantly cut in the budget for 2024. Next year, only a third of the planned funds will be available for climate protection measures. As a member of the Climate Alliance, WDC is committed to ending this austerity policy at the expense of whales and dolphins, the oceans and the climate.

"It has long been known that the ocean and its inhabitants play a crucial role in the climate system and for our life on Earth. We can only solve the climate crisis if we protect whales, dolphins and the ocean," says Tamara Narganes Homfeldt, coordinator of marine conservation at WDC Germany. "It is more than disappointing that funding for marine conservation has now also been massively cut in the context of this conference. But it spurs us on to keep up the pressure on governments and to prove with research data that we can no longer ignore the oceans."

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