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Photo by Shaun Low

1. The rallying cry of the UN Ocean Conference is “Save our Ocean, Protect our Future”. What does this theme mean to you?

Answer: You may have heard my daily mantra, “No healthy planet without a healthy ocean, and the ocean’s health is measurably in decline.” So what that rallying cry means for me is that we have work to do to reverse the decline. Let’s get to it.



2. The Conference will focus on scaling up science and innovation to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 on life below water. How are we doing on SDG 14, and how are we leveraging science and innovation?

Answer: SDG 14 seeks to conserve and sustainably use the ocean’s resources. We are making reasonable progress on conserving the ocean, and I’m very hopeful that Convention on Biological Diversity COP 15 will adopt the proposed 30 by 30 target later this year. We are doing less well on sustainable use, and there are some sectors that have big plans to open up new areas of unsustainable ocean activity. If we truly desire sustainability, future decisions on the use of ocean resources should be based on climate-smart marine spatial planning, on the precautionary principle, and on sound ocean science, which is why Member States mandated the UN Decade of Ocean Science that is currently underway.


Peter Thomson

As the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thomson leads the UN’s advocacy and outreach efforts to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources for sustainable development. Photo: UN/Eskinder Debebe



3. What are the main issues on the agenda at the Ocean Conference? Why should people pay attention?

Answer: The UN Ocean Conferences are held in support of SDG 14, so the main issues are the 10 targets of the goal — ranging from marine pollution through to the implementation of international law. UN Member States have chosen a theme for the conference that rests on scaling up ocean action, stocktaking, science, innovation, partnerships, and most importantly, solutions. People should pay attention if they care about the ocean’s health.



4. What do you hope will come out of Lisbon? What does a successful outcome look like in your eyes?

Answer: I hope to witness the launching of a great fleet of science-based, innovative solutions to the ocean’s challenges. With these, in the next few years we will work our way towards reversing the decline of the ocean’s health.


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