By Meigan Henry
With the South China Sea as backdrop, the first ever World Oceans Summit (WOS) officially opened this morning to a packed room.
John Micklethwait, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist and WOS Chairman, began by explaining that The Economist’s goal for the event was to bring together as many people as possible, and to provoke them towards meaningful discussion, a fruitful exchange of ideas that might ultimately lead to action.
Key Players, Key Issues
With 27 countries represented at the Summit, today’s speakers included the presidents of Iceland and Kiribati, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, a filmmaker taking questions live from the Great Barrier Reef, the Prince of Wales delivering a special video message, leaders in the shipping industry, fishermen, academics, and NGO and business CEOs, among others.
Discussions centered around the valuation of ocean ecosystem services, sustainable business opportunities, the governance of the high seas and the Arctic ocean – a fragile ecosystem experiencing growing economic activity as rising temperatures melt the ice and allow for easier access.
NG Makes a Splash
Capping off the day, National Geographic hosted a gala dinner with a presentation by photographer David Doubilet. David captivated the attendees with his powerfully beautiful and intimate images of the ocean, coupled with stories about pygmy seahorses nestled in coral polyps, mating sea turtles, and baby fur seals taking their first swim. The ocean came alive through his talk, but Doubilet warned that it is a fragile place in very real danger. “Can we save it?” he asked, and replied, “I don’t know.”
Timed perfectly with the Summit, Forbes released an interview yesterday with National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala. In the article, Enric describes the concept of fish banks – areas of the ocean set aside to protect marine life – that not only allow fish and other life within the reserve to rebound, but can also provide business opportunities through the creation of new jobs, tourism, and increased fish numbers in nearby areas. He explains, “Marine reserves are not new tools, but we are looking at a new approach to create and run them—by thinking of fish banks as business opportunities, as a way to maximize their utility while protecting the environment.” Enric and others at the World Ocean Summit will be discussing this concept tomorrow in a session focused on the challenges we face in establishing and maintaining marine protected areas (MPAs).