Blog Marine Conservation

Our Ocean Conference

April 22, 2024

Our Ocean Conference

Hot on the heels of the Ocean Decade Conference, AMCS championed Australia’s magnificent marine life at a second significant international gathering of the ocean community in as many weeks. 

The Our Ocean Conference took place in Athens 15-17th of April. This is a different kettle of fish. Started a decade ago by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Our Oceans exists to fill gaps in ocean protection by providing a platform every year for decision-makers to announce big action for our big blue backyard. 

Ten years ago, Our Ocean was conceived as an attempt to draw a line in the sand for our oceans, and to draw a line under international meetings that delivered on talk and politics but not on the water.

Ten years on, Our Ocean has become an engine room for action. 

In keeping with its purpose of getting the right people in the room to make the commitments our ocean needs, 119 different countries were represented and there was high-level attendance with many heads of state and ministers attending. 

This year over US$11bn was announced across 469 commitments across marine protected area designation and management, plastic pollution reduction, greening the shipping fleet, improving the sustainability of fisheries and climate solutions for the ocean. 

On the back of that scaled-up investment, Our Ocean generated a real sense of momentum and collaboration to protect our blue planet. In a testament to its impact, with this year’s announcements, almost half (47%) the total area of all the marine reserves in the world have now been committed to during these conferences. 

Held in the birthplace of the marathon, leaving Athens it is clear that there is a long road ahead. However, that road feels just a little straighter. There are more people from more sectors working together for our oceans today than at any time before. Inside governments and out – in industry, research, philanthropy and the NGO community, more are stepping up to take responsibility.

That’s not to say that there also wasn’t a shared and healthy sense of realism – Our Ocean was no hollow exercise in back patting. If there was one take home message it was that: we’re in a race against time and, whilst progress is being made, the scale of the problems facing our oceans are growing so the scale of our ambition must grow to meet them.

Despite the progress, only 8% of our oceans are in marine reserves, way short of achieving the global target of 30% of our oceans protected by 2030. The spectre of mining the deep seabed is on the horizon. And our oceans are hotter than at any time ever before.

So, whilst this conference shows we’re well out of the starting blocks, the marathon must now become a sprint as we race against time and tide. This is the decade if we are to spare our oceans the worst of climate impacts. This is the decade if we are to prevent a wave of extinctions beneath the waves.