Last month, ocean leaders from various sectors across the planet convened in the week-long II UN Ocean Conference (UNOC – Lisbon, Portugal, 27th June to 1st July). The broad conference theme, “Scaling Up Ocean Action Based on Science and Innovation for the Implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, Partnerships and Solutions”, set the stage for the negotiation and agreement on a high-level Political Declaration entitled “Our ocean, our future, our responsibility”.
Two projects funded by the European Research Council (ERC-COG TRADITION, ERC Synergy Grant 4-OCEANS) highlighted the importance of long-term human-ocean interactions as the foundation of present day local traditional knowledge, which is gaining prominence in ocean management. These past interactions must be understood in order to “Recognize the important role of indigenous, traditional and local knowledge, innovation and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as the role of social science in planning, decision-making and implementation” (article 14.a of the Political declaration).
Leopoldo Gerhardinger (ERC-COG TRADITION) delivered a plenary intervention and a written statement entitled “Bridging Shades of Blue”, which was also endorsed by the International Science Council, Ocean Knowledge-Action Network and its International Project Office, Future Earth project, Brazilian Future Ocean Panel, The Oceanographic Society, International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, Nova FCSH (Portugal), and Oceans Past Initiative. Cristina Brito (ERC Synergy Grant 4-OCEANS) delivered the manifesto “Humanities 4 the Ocean”, which was endorsed by the UNESCO Chair Ocean’s Cultural Heritage, Centre for the Humanities (NOVA FCSH), Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities (TCD), Oceans Past Initiative, Humanities for the Environment Observatories, ERC TRADITION (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), ERC DUNES, Centre for History (University of Lisbon), Underwater Cultural Heritage of Stone Fish Weirs, Associação Para as Ciências do Mar, BRIDGES Sustainability Science Coalition, Ocean Decade Heritage Network, and Maritime Archaeology Trust (UK).
Both statements highlighted one shade of ‘Blue’ deserving more attention – the oceans past, our Blue Heritage, which is often not given enough credit for innovating towards ocean sustainability. We promoted the voice of the global ocean humanities and social sciences communities during the event, calling for the global ocean community to engage with ocean citizens’ knowledge and collective action to help bridge the divide between visions of “Blue Economy” and “Blue Justice”.
A shortlist of key recommendations to bridge this deep divide included calls for support to better acknowledge oceans past in policy-making, and long-term marine-related networks and transdisciplinary programs to enable the co-creation of solutions to ocean problems by local citizens together with scientists, such as the designation of a new Intergovernmental Panel for Ocean Sustainability (IPOS). The statement also called for centering social equity and traditional ecological knowledge of small-scale fishers at the heart of sustainable marine resource use, ocean conservation and blue economy innovations.
The Lisbon conference was an unparalleled opportunity for networking and envisioning of new, critical collaborations between these institutions and ocean research communities across the globe.