» Mobilizing future generations to protect the ocean
05.06.2018 - Commission océanographique intergouvernementale

Mobilizing future generations to protect the ocean

© UNESCO/Christelle ALIX - UNESCO Campus organized as part of World Ocean Day 2018 celebrations on the topic of marine litter.

As part of World Oceans Day (8 June) celebrations, 200 young students took part in a UNESCO Campus aimed at raising their awareness of marine litter issues, in particular microplastics. This event was organized on 5 June 2018 by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), UNESCO’s Sector for External Relations and Public Information and the NGO Surfrider Foundation Europe, with the support of the ENGIE Corporate Foundation.

By combining scientific and societal approaches, the Campus allowed expert guests to explain the urgency of the situation: more than 8 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the ocean every year, that is to say 206 kg per second.

"A plastic bag thrown into the Seine river can end up in the stomach of a turtle swimming thousands of miles away from us, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean," explained Itahisa Déniz González and Katherina Schoo of the IOC-UNESCO. "We must not forget that the ocean is a shared resource. It does not have a physical boundary."

Since 1968, the IOC jointly sponsors an advisory body within the United Nations dedicated to the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection: GESAMP. Specialized working groups usually carry out GESAMP studies and evaluations. Among these, Working Group 40 – coordinated by the IOC and UN Environment – is dedicated to plastics and microplastics.

"80% of the world's marine pollution comes from land, due to poor management or bad behavior," stated Cristina Barreau, Surfrider expert on the issue of marine litter. "Marine litter, including plastic, has no boundaries and is harmful to humans."

"Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic, so small that they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Once in the sewers, they reach the sewage treatment plant that unfortunately are not able to filter such tiny particles. Microplastics then end up in the sea," elaborated Camila Catarcy Carteni, researcher specialized in plastic in the aquatic environment.

We all have a role to play and we can all contribute, each at our own level, to the protection of the ocean. We can start by changing our habits regarding cosmetics use, which represent 2 to 3% of plastics in the ocean, mostly in the form of microbeads.

"A product can have different purposes: for example, you can mix equal amounts of olive or argan oil with fine sugar to make a scrub. In the same way, you can use a little bit of baking soda with coconut oil to avoid the microbeads that can be found in some toothpastes, and you will get an equally effective but natural paste. These natural substances are not harmful to the ocean," said Julien Kaibeck, founder of Slow Cosmétique.

Following an interactive quiz to test the students’ new knowledge, the speakers stressed how important it was for the young generation to take part in building together a better future, with a clean and healthy ocean.

"The ocean is the second lung of our planet. Even if you don’t see it, it's part of everyone's life. You are the solution for a protected ocean; you are the voice of the ocean!" concluded Surfrider's Antidia Citores.

For more information, please contact:

Rejane Hervé-Hayworth (r.herve(at)unesco.org)




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