09.10.2012 - Natural Sciences Sector

Women’s Sea Congress: innovation is the only way forward

Women from the shipping industry invited women from all sea related activities to join them in a new forum, a Women’s Sea Congress, to discuss promising innovations for the maritime economy, the female contribution to the modernization of the maritime sector and what should be done in the future. Over all, marine activities are estimated to represent 5% of global GDP -3 trillion trillion USD – including shipping, as 90% of all goods are transported via the ocean, fisheries and aquacultures that provide over 180 million jobs, tourism, offshore renewable energy, etc.

The Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) organized the congress under the theme ‘Women for modernity in maritime economy’ because innovation is the only way forward for the maritime sector, not only with regards to the perspectives of financial and business opportunities but equally in terms of the environmental factors and the new economic balance in the world.

Wendy Watson-Wright, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC), was invited to speak on Environmental aspects and governance of marine and coastal areas. She reminded the professional women gathered at the congress of the many essential services provided by the ocean: oxygen for every second breath we take, absorbing heat and carbon emissions and regulating our weather in additional to being a critical economic resource. ‘Despite our reliance on marine resources, we have made the ocean one of the Earth’s most threatened ecosystems,’ warned Dr. Watson-Wright, ‘it faces a multitude of interconnected threats that are unprecedented in modern human history.’
The challenge is to shift ocean use and governance to live with and from the ocean sustainably, which requires changing our relationship with the ocean and our behaviour.

Shifting the management model to a co-management one, in which users are ultimately directly responsible for the use and conservation of resources, it is essential. For this model to be effective, every individual, women and men alike, has to be counted and included. Gender equality considerations become, therefore, of crucial importance for its success’ she explained. UNESCO-IOC promotes the equal presence of men and women in the marine sciences community, especially promoting women scientists as role models for young women.

Traditionally, women and men have had access to and used marine resources differently, reflecting a traditional division of roles and responsibilities that is nowadays unsuitable to respond effectively to the challenges of climate change (…) Experience shows that when coastal planning and management is based only on the needs, knowledge and perception of half the population, the male half, the full scope of threats and conflicts and available opportunities are not addressed, with negative impacts on women, the excluded group.’

Solutions and tools for the sustainable use and governance of the ocean already exist. What is required at this stage is more political commitment to apply these solutions and a strong science/policy interface. Less than 5% of the Ocean has been explored and more research is needed to develop meaningful projections. It is time to support science, observation and monitoring to better understand the consequences of our behaviour and transform our relationship with the ocean.  

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