America's Cup-winning sailors and Olympic gold medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are heading to a UN ocean conference in Portugal as part of their mission to champion a healthy sea.
This week we're heading to the United Nations' Ocean Conference in Lisbon as founders of Live Ocean. The UN is where the world meets to solve global issues, and the health of the ocean that covers 70 per cent of our planet is one of the biggest of our time. It will be a privilege to be there.
Aotearoa New Zealand is kaitiaki for one of the largest marine areas of any country on earth. We have a vitally important role to play in the global ocean conversation but, despite the efforts of many, we have seen little or no progress on the health of 94 per cent of our country — the four million square kilometres beneath the waves. If we were talking in racing terms, we haven't even left the shed while most of the fleet is well underway.
When we think climate, we must think ocean. It's the planet's largest carbon sink. As a group of small islands surrounded by a massive ocean, this could be New Zealand's largest global contribution to the climate emergency we face. It doesn't make sense that we're leaving the single biggest tool we have out of policy, decision making and national strategies.
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We are a nation blessed with deep knowledge in science and mātauranga that can move us forward. But we urgently need greater leadership and ambition. In the five years since the last ocean conference, New Zealand has largely failed to make progress, while much of the world has embarked on meaningful change — protecting valuable and vulnerable ocean areas, reducing pollution, and halting destructive fishing methods. The people we talk to, those who know the sea, feel like they've been shouting into the wind for decades. Meanwhile, the ocean is changing fast.
While in Lisbon we are presenting a declaration to the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for the Ocean that sports people and leaders from the ocean community in New Zealand have signed their names to. The Declaration carries to the United Nations the voices of our ocean people - sailors, surfers, voyagers, wingfoilers, rowers, skiers, windsurfers, teams, cricketers, tennis and rugby players – all who love the ocean and understand its importance.
People care deeply about the health of our ocean. We hear it every day. What will it take to spark New Zealand to act to secure the future health of the ocean? The ocean is not just a place where we work and play. A healthy and resilient ocean underpins all life on earth.
It's time to protect the ocean that we love and need. It's time to act because our lives depend on it.