The Emerging Ocean Protection Principle: Summary of our side event at Immersed in Change, Costa Rica

The Immersed In Change High-Level Conference, convened by the Government of Costa Rica in San José on June 7-8, 2024, exactly one year before the 2025 UN Ocean Conference in Nice (France), began with a stimulating Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean official curtain-raiser: The Emerging Protection Principle on 7 June at 08h00 CST.

The event, which focused on the growing Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean Movement, now joined by some 40 entities, efforts to scale up ocean protection before UNOC 2025, and announcements for the Nice conference, drew a full room of attendees.

Participants at the Emerging Ocean Principle event in San José, Costa Rica, 7 June 2024 (c) Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean.

Two panels took place with non-governmental entities and country representatives, featuring a keynote by French Minister Hervé Berville and closing remarks by Dr. Kilaparti Ramakrishna of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (US).

Rémi Parmentier, Director, The Varda Group and Coordinator of Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean, recalled the main message of the Protection Principle: ocean protection as the norm and not the exception. He announced that some 40 stakeholder organizations have already joined Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean in support of the Protection Principle, with more expected to adhere on the way to Nice. “Until today, we were referring to the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean initiative; as of today with 40 associated stakeholders, it is the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean Movement. And movement is what the ocean needs!”

Rémi Parmentier presents the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean Movement at the Immersed in Change Conference (c) Photo by IISD/ENB – Diego Noguera

Loreley Picourt, Executive Director, Ocean & Climate Platform, outlined immediate and future plans beyond San José. She outlined three scenarios for the next five years: business as usual: “that’s what we must avoid at all costs”; achievement of SDG14 targets: “we know it’s going to be difficult, some targets are seriously behind schedule already, but we need to keep pushing”. And as third scenario, innovative proposals as those developed by Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean in cooperation with different stakeholders: “because as we all know, there’s no crisis without opportunity and we need to be a force for ambitious change”.

Isabel Leal Maldonado, The Varda Group, summarized three takeaways from the 24 submissions received from various entities, which were published in a compilation and released at the time of the event:

  • There is a strong drive to scale up urgent action for ocean protection: Contributions compiled span from sustainable blue finance proposals to the much-needed real inclusiveness of Indigenous Peoples and small-scale fishers in ocean governance.
  • References to ocean rights and enforcement were prominent: contributions championed the concept of Ocean Rights, “advocating a paradigm shift that recognizes the ocean as a legal entity with inherent rights.” Some also highlighted the potential of criminal justice to support efforts to combat crimes that affect our ocean.
  • Synergies and diversity with the Protection Principle: Convergence with the Protection Principle was noted by many contributors. Additionally, some questions were raised by small-scale fishers: “Divergence contributes to strengthening the conversation on resilient approaches to ocean protection and restoration.”
Isabel Leal, the Varda Group, alongside Loreley Picourt, Ocean & Climate Platform, summarizes the proposals from civil society to scale up ocean protection (c) TBA21

Two panels took place with, respectively, non-governmental entities, and a group of country representatives.

The first panel was made up of a selection of organizations which had provided new proposals and comments in recent weeks:

  • Diva Amon, DOSI, emphasized the critical role of the deep ocean for planetary stability and supported the call for a moratorium on deep sea mining.
  • Richard Brisius, The Ocean Race, proposed that the 3rd UN Ocean Conference recognizes the set of Ocean Rights principles, which his organization has developed and promotes on the road to Nice, in line with the Protection Principle.
  • Joaquín de la Torre Ponce, IFAW, highlighted that agreeing to a 10% speed reduction in shipping would be for UNOC3 a cost-effective and immediate way to protect marine wildlife and mitigate climate change at the same time.
  • Julien Rochette, IDDRI, noted that it was time for ocean policy frameworks to address the impacts of the tourism sector on sustainable development, and proposed that regional seas programmes in the Mediterranean and elsewhere address this issue.
  • Speaking as one of the seven partners of Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean, Markus Reymann, TBA21, welcomed the incorporation of some 40 associated stakeholders.
Panel of civil society and donors address the audience at the Immersed In Change conference (c) TBA21

The second panel was formed by country representatives:

  • Ambassador Gina Guillén Grillo from Costa Rica said: “we need to be disruptive, and for this we need to move to action, to keep the hope alive”. She added that the Ocean Protection Principle and science must be “at the heart of everything”, citing as a critical test case the current controversy over deep sea mining and the position Costa Rica shares with Chile, France and other countries for a moratorium or precautionary pause on deep sea mining.
  • Ambassador Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, Special Envoy of President Macron for the Ocean, valued the progress of Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean with the incorporation of associated stakeholders, emphasizing that in his mind civil society is not made up of just NGOs, but also “ocean indigenous peoples”. He announced that on 8 June 2025 in Nice, the French and Costa Rican Presidents, along with the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, will hold a special event to dialogue with civil society representatives.
  • Based on his personal experience of working in co-operation with NGOs on ocean issues in the context of the UNFCCC since COP21 (Paris, 2015), including the “Blue COP” (COP25) chaired by Chile in 2019, Ambassador Julio Cordano said that Nice should be an important opportunity to call for the incorporation of the ocean into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) next year. He said also that another important outcome should be precisely the international joint agenda for governments and civil society, because “it is clear that we need to all go together in the same direction”.
  • In her last intervention as a Member of the European Parliament on the eve of the European election, Catherine Chabaud explained that she was optimistic as there was a lot of convergence among different initiatives all pointing in the direction of the Protection Principle.
Representatives from Chile, Costa Rica, France and the European Parliament at the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean event in San José (c) The Varda Group

In a keynote speech Hervé Berville, France’s Minister of the Sea and Biodiversity, emphasized the importance of keeping up the dynamic movement “every time that we have an opportunity to talk together and exchange views on ocean and climate action”. Commenting on the Let’s Be Nice to the Ocean proposal that governments appoint Ministers of the Ocean, “and not just ministers of fisheries”, he said that this was the underlying thought when his own mandate as Minister of the Sea was expanded at the beginning of 2024, to include biodiversity “on land and at sea, because the ocean affects life on land and vice-versa”. In that context and before the European election, Berville said that it was important to have an ocean commissioner in the European Commission.

Minister Berville comments on joint efforts to scale up ocean protection (c) The Varda Group.

Closing the meeting, Dr. Kilaparti Ramakrishna of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, reminded the audience that – beyond Nice – we will want to make sure that countries are held accountable for the commitments that they make next year, “so that we do see actual, tangible improvement”.

Dr. Kilaparti Ramakrishna of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, alongside Ambassador Poivre d’Arvor and MEP Catherine Chabaud, delivers closing remarks at the Emerging Protection Principle event in San José, 7 June 2024 (c) Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
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