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UN Secretary-General, Prime Ministers, athletes and ocean advocates call for action to protect ocean

by The Ocean Race 24 Jan 08:14 PST
Nature's Baton featured at The Ocean Race Summit in Cabo Verde © Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race

The Ocean Race Summit Mindelo, gathered over 300 ocean advocates in Cabo Verde yesterday, including United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres; Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva; and Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, to discuss redoubling efforts to protect the ocean.

Leading voices at The Ocean Race Summit Mindelo, Cabo Verde, yesterday called for urgent ocean action in an event that brought together nations unified by their connection to the ocean.

"We are in the midst of a severe crisis caused by climate change, accelerated loss of biodiversity, and ocean pollution which severely affects all countries, and island nations in a particularly serious way," Cabo Verde's Prime Minister, Ulisses Correia e Silva, said to over 300 government, civil society and private sector representatives gathered at the event held at the Ocean Science Centre Mindelo (OSCM). "The climate and environmental crisis are global. Solving them is the responsibility of every country in the world, and a greater responsibility for the countries with the largest share in producing the harmful effects of climate change and pollution."

"We share a strong commitment to the cause of conservation and sustainable use of the seas and oceans," the Prime Minister said, highlighting the joint work the Race and the country are conducting to develop principles of ocean rights and boosting support for the adoption of a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights by 2030. "Together we can be stronger."

The Ocean Race and partners - including the Government of Cabo Verde and US-based Earth Law Center - are working to give the ocean a voice and gathering global support for the adoption of a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights by 2030.

"Cabo Verde has always been marked by climatic aridity and water scarcity. Resilience is the word that best defines us. It is our ability to adapt and transform the challenging environmental, economic, and social reality with faith, work, and ambition for development," he said. "In Cabo Verde, the sea used to be a symbol of emigration and longing. Today, it represents tourism, desalinated water, blue economy, underwater fibre optic cable links, clean energy, biotechnology, aquaculture, the canning industry for export, a skills centre, and nautical events such as The Ocean Race," he added. "The sun and the wind, which a few decades ago were symbols of droughts, today are resources for the production of renewable energy and the reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels."

Addressing the event, Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, said: "The ocean is not a cost centre, it is a wealth generator. The ocean is our past, our present and our future. This applies not only to Portugal, but also to Cabo Verde and all of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), which is exclusively made up of coastal countries, spread over four continents," he added.

Prime Minister Costa welcomed The Ocean Race, which he defined as an "ideal event" to raise awareness on the need for ocean action among governments, companies, civil society and other stakeholders, as well as to "openly share ideas and solutions."

In previous editions The Ocean Race fleet has often passed close by - or even through the middle - of the African island nation. In the 2022-23 edition, however, for the first time ever the fleet stopped in Cabo Verde at the end of the 1,900 nautical mile opening leg from Alicante, Spain. This makes the Cabo Verde Republic the first ever West African nation in the race's history to host a stopover.

Cabo Verde's Minister of Agriculture and Environment, Gilberto Correa Carvalho, said: "As a small island state, we contribute very little to climate change but suffer greatly from its consequences."

"The ocean is not getting any healthier. We need to wake up," said Isabella Lövin, Former Deputy Prime Minister, and former Minister for the Environment of Sweden and Co-Chair of the WEF Friends of Ocean Action. "We don't have more time, we need to start acting."

In her pledge representing the Cabo Verdean youth, student Odara Brito said: "We pledge to protect and preserve the ocean, because more than a resource, it is a source of life. We are fully aware that if we have the power to destroy the ocean, then we must have even greater power to save, protect and respect it"

Former president of the Seychelles, Danny Faure, reiterated: "Today, I am so happy to be in Cabo Verde, standing shoulder to shoulder with like-minded partners, furthering the cause to pursue a path leading to the adoption of a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights!"

In a video message, Wendy Schmidt, philanthropist, President of The Schmidt Family Foundation and co-founder of 11th Hour Racing - the Founding Partner of The Ocean Race's award-winning Racing with Purpose sustainability programme and a Premier Partner of the Race, said: "The ocean is the largest living system we know on Earth and its mysteries, capacities and limitations are quickly becoming front and centre for the human community, as we've heard at today's summit. There's no time for turning our backs on the challenges human industrial activity has presented to a once healthy ocean."

"There is simply not enough action on the ocean," said World Bank's Global Director for Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy, Valerie Hickey.

Among the speakers were leading ocean athletes, including two of the sailors competing in The Ocean Race - Mariana Lobato from Team Biotherm and skipper of Team Malizia, Boris Herrmann - alongside World windsurfing champion, Josh Angulo, and Mitu Monteiro, Kitesurf world wave champion. Speaking about their connection to the seas, the ocean advocates also called for action. Monteiro said: "All my life is around the ocean. I spend more time in the sea than I do on land. The ocean needs our help, let's think before making decisions. Everyone can do a little bit, together we can change a lot of things."

The Ocean Race Summits are a key part of The Ocean Race's multi-award winning 'Racing with Purpose' sustainability programme, which brings together a range of tangible ways that can have a positive impact on the marine environment. Working with 11th Hour Racing - the Founding Partner of the Racing with Purpose programme and a Premier Partner of The Ocean Race, The Ocean Race is holding these meetings to drive global decision-makers to create policies to protect and govern the ocean, contributing vital data about the state of the seas to leading scientific organisations, equipping children with the knowledge to help the ocean and much more.

UN Secretary-General receives Nature's Baton

At the event, Boris Herrmann, skipper of Team Malizia, handed Nature's Baton to Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva, who, in turn, handed it to the UN Secretary General, who delivered a keynote address at the Summit. Symbolising Relay4Nature, an initiative by The Ocean Race and UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, Nature's Baton is passed between teams in The Ocean Race, global leaders and ocean advocates. Connecting the world's key environmental events, it champions the ocean and calls on decision-makers to take urgent action to protect nature.

Drawing parallels between the extreme and difficult conditions experienced in the first leg of the Race and the fight to protect the ocean, Boris Herrmann said: "It demands everything from us. We have to change our sails and our cause and navigate the winds to accelerate our path."

The panels, at a glance:

Panel 1: The value of ocean science and ocean literacy

  • Abraão Vicente, Minister of the Sea & Minister of Culture, Creative Industries
  • Dr. Yara Rodrigues, Director of Research Atlantic Technical University Award winning PhD
  • Ivanice Monteiro, Ocean Science Centre Co-ordinator IMar
  • Dr. Björn Fiedler, GEOMAR Scientific Coordinator of the Ocean Science Centre Mindelo
  • Prof. Dr. Corrine Almeida, Director of the WASCAL MRP-CCMS
  • Ana Agostinho, Advisor MIRPURI Foundation
  • Tommy Melo, Founder of Biosfera

Panel 2: Sustainable Ocean Science

  • Olavo Avelino Garcia Correia, Deputy Prime Minister of Cabo Verde & Minister of Finance
  • Christopher Lilyblad, UNDP Development Economist for Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau
  • Miguel Monteiro, Chairman & CEO Cabo Verde Stock Exchange
  • Valerie Hickey - Global Director for Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy, World Bank

Panel 3: Ocean Action

  • Gilberto Correia Carvalho Silva, Minister of Agriculture and Environment Cabo Verde
  • Débora Carvalho, First Lady of Cabo Verde
  • Isabella Lövin, Chair of Stockholm Environment Institute, Former Deputy Prime Minister, and former Minister for the Environment, Sweden, Co-Chair, Friends of Ocean Action

Panel 4: Sports and Sustainability - "Achieving the Unachievable"

  • Josh Angulo, World windsurfing champion Angulo Cabo Verde Surf Center
  • Mitu Monteiro, Kitesurf world wave champion
  • Mariana Lobato, The Ocean Race Sailor with Team Biotherm
  • Boris Herrmann, Team Malizia Skipper
  • Carlo Jorge Duarte Santos, Minister Tourism & Transport

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