SOS! We must save the oceans now! Costa Rica calls on 30 countries to act at environmental summit

SOS! We must save the oceans now! Costa Rica calls on 30 countries to act at environmental summit
SOS! We must save the oceans now! Costa Rica calls on 30 countries to act at environmental summit

On June 7 and 8, ‘Immersed in Change’ took place, an environmental summit organized by Costa Rica in collaboration with the French Government. It sought to have politicians, scientists and civil society participants share good practices and successful experiences on the governance and health of the seas. The event arose in preparation for the third United Nations Conference on the Ocean, which Costa Rica and France will also co-organize in Nice in June 2025. It concluded with a Declaration of Peace for the Ocean, endorsed by 26 countries.

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Among the signatories were Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic and UruguayThe document contains 12 statements, linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, to conserve and sustainably use the planet’s marine resources. This Declaration of Peace shows the “deep conviction that we must move our actions towards a sustainable blue economy and nature-based solutions, taking scientific information as a starting point for decision-making.”

However, it is an exposition of good intentions, but it is not binding on the signatories nor does it contain any concrete actions to follow. That is why some expressed some skepticism, such as Damián Martínez Fernández, director of Conservation and Public Policy of the Costa Rican Fishing Federation.

“We, as an NGO, would demand that the countries that signed it, and especially those in the Latin American region, come to Nice next year and explain what they are doing to reduce threats and continue to bring peace to the oceans,” she says.

Martínez makes this warning because the situation of the oceans is very critical in several aspects. For example, in 2023 one of the largest increases in temperature was recorded, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), although this warming has been constantly accelerating in the last two decades.

Environmental police try to clean up rubbish in Mount Lavinia, Colombo, Sri-Lanka.


In a study involving more than 100 scientists from 30 countries, UNESCO shows that the temperature has increased by an average of 1.45 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, although there are points in the Mediterranean Sea, the Tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Southern Ocean where the increase exceeds 2 degrees Celsius, just above one of the goals of the Paris Agreement.

This warming has already raised the world’s sea level, at a rate that has doubled in the last 30 years, to nine centimetres. The problem is that this phenomenon continues to accelerate, so much so that, before the end of the century, islands like Cuba could lose 10% of their territory due to rising ocean waters. The Caribbean country, in fact, will be one of the hardest hit nations, despite being responsible for only 0.08% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Oceans without an owner

“The ocean is a constant reminder that we are all connected. Its health is our health. Its well-being is our well-being.”says Katiana Murillo, a journalist specializing in climate change. The seas are suffering the effects of human action in a very alarming way. According to Murillo, they have absorbed 90% of the heat from global warming. And most global policies are focused on protecting land resources, not marine resources. Much of this is due to the fact that there are large marine areas that do not belong to any nation, so no one wants to take responsibility for them.

UNESCO also reports that around 500 ocean dead zones have been identified, where “there is almost no marine life left due to the decrease in oxygen content in the water.” The organization points out that there is great concern due to the increase in water acidity, “derived from excess CO2 from fossil fuel emissions.” This acidity has already increased by 30% compared to pre-industrial levels, but “the increase is projected to reach 170% by 2100.”

Other major problems include overfishing and the concentration of garbage. “There is a concern about plastics in the ocean, because it is one of the biggest threats,” explains Murillo. In fact, the largest floating mass in the world is in the North Pacific. It covers an area of ​​more than 1.6 million square kilometers, equivalent to a little less than Mexico. In the North Atlantic there is another important concentration with more than 200,000 plastic fragments per square kilometer.

One of the recommendations from experts to avoid this type of situation is to deposit rubbish only in the designated places.


“The ocean is a constant reminder that we are all connected. Its health is our health. Its well-being is our well-being.”

Although they are not the only garbage islands, “both were created as a result of unfortunate multinational decisions regarding waste management and from a linear economy composed of consecutive processes of extraction-production-distribution-consumption-waste,” explain Rosenda Aguilar and Salvador García, researchers at the Michoacana University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo, in an academic article.

Marine ecosystems play a very important role in the climate balance of the planet. They are “real carbon bombs””, as noted in the Atlas of Latin America and the Caribbean, published by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and SciencesPo. This is because they absorb between 25% and 30% of the planet’s CO2 emissions, “which greatly limits emissions into the atmosphere and heat production”.

It is necessary to give the oceans a “break” and stop plundering and polluting them, “because everything that happens on the continents has repercussions on the sea. The efforts that can be made at a regional level are very valuable because they can be replicated in other parts of the world. The time has come to try to protect marine spaces,” says Gina Cuza, director of the Cocos Marine Conservation Area in Costa Rica.

But amidst all this disaster, there is good news: Latin America has become one of the most important areas for ocean preservation. Despite the scarcity of its resources to invest in this issue and research the effects of climate change, as Murillo points out, in international forums it stands out for the high participation of governments. “It is a region that collaborates, that is very good at establishing alliances and that is something that must be encouraged more and more. If there is something positive about the region, it is that it is very easy to join together, it is a region of drive, with a lot of initiatives and a lot of collaboration. And that is key.”

An important fact by way of example: in 2010, the signatories of the Convention on Biological Diversity set themselves the goal of safeguarding 10% of marine and coastal areas by 2020 on a global scale. Latin America exceeded the target by 24.44%, going from less than one million to more than five million square kilometers of protected marine surface. “This margin of progress, which places the region in a fairly good position at the global level, also reflects the significant efforts made by national governments,” notes the AFD Atlas.

Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil and Chile are leading the way in protecting their maritime waters. In the latter country, for example, 41.53% of marine and coastal areas are already protected, according to information from the NGO Protected Planet. Likewise, in January 2023, the government of Gabriel Boric created the protection zone in Pisagua Bay, thanks to the mobilization of researchers from the Arturo Prat University and experts from Oceana – the largest international ocean defense organization – who had revealed the richness of this area in terms of biodiversity.

Marine corridor

There is no more water in some countries and many have constant illnesses due to environmental issues.

One of the most relevant initiatives in the region is the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Conservation Corridor, created more than two decades ago by the governments of Costa Rica and Ecuador, although Panama and Colombia are also participating today, with the support of the European Union, the Principality of Monaco and UNESCO, among other organizations. It seeks the proper management of marine and coastal resources, as well as biodiversity, through joint regional government strategies. “It is a space that invites other governments to expand their conservation areas, but also to carry out coordinated management because marine species have no borders, no limitations,” says Cuzo.

“Many of the species of tourist importance, such as whales and sea turtles, do not know geographical boundaries. Therefore, there is an exchange of species. The same whales that are seen in Costa Rica migrate to Chile or Mexico,” adds Damián Martínez. He also points out that there are other efforts at a regional level, such as in the South Pacific and the Eastern Pacific, where attempts are being made to make proposals for joint management of marine resources.

UNESCO identifies marine forests as the most important barrier against the accelerated degradation facing the oceans. They are groups of macroalgae that reach up to 30 meters and absorb five times more carbon than land forests. Therefore, “in addition to being refuges of biodiversity, they represent one of the best bulwarks against global warming.” However, only about 40% of the world’s countries have policies to restore and conserve them.

Gina Cuzo remains optimistic about the future of the oceans, as long as countries take joint action to conserve marine resources. “There is still hope if international forums are held and governments understand the need to invest resources. We are still in time to be able to reverse in some way the damage we have been causing for years.” She acknowledges that many governments are making efforts to mitigate human impacts on the oceans, which are already evident: “There is no more water in some countries and many have constant illnesses due to environmental issues.”

Thus, as the Costa Rican document says, it is time to declare peace with the oceans. Experts agree on the need for the whole of society to get involved in this matter, based on two basic principles: education on environmental issues and political decision-making based on scientific data. Because this will guarantee continuity to the actions of the present, for the good of the future of the planet.



Mexican journalist, member of the Editorial Board of ‘Connectas’, Doctor in Languages ​​and Artistic and Literary Manifestations, and Master in Spanish and Ibero-American Thought from the Autonomous University of Madrid and professional in Communication Sciences from UNAM.

(**) This is a non-profit journalistic initiative that promotes the production, exchange, training and dissemination of information on key issues for the development of the Americas. This article was edited for space reasons.

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