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Author: Sian Owen, Executive Director of the DSCC

At Barcelona’s UN Ocean Decade Conference, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) gathered friends and champions, on 9 April 2024, to celebrate 20 years of advocating for the protection and preservation of the deep sea. That day, we were also proud to be an honorary recipient of Nature’s Baton, on behalf of the deep sea itself. 

The Conference focused on ‘delivering the science we need for the ocean we want’. It brought together the Ocean Decade community and partners to celebrate achievements, take stock of progress and set joint priorities to strengthen the sustainable management of the ocean and drive science-based innovation. Central to the success of these ambitious goals and actions is the preservation and protection of the deep ocean, which makes up 90% of the marine environment. 

Our side event saw Inga Thordar of the Ocean Born Foundation facilitate a discussion between Dr Lisa Levin, Professor Dan Hikuroa, Richard Brisius of The Ocean Race, and myself, around the wonders of the deep sea, the threats it faces and why its protection is so vital. Reflecting the goals of the UN Ocean Decade, the discussion highlighted the importance of deep-ocean science to discover more about these ecosystems, to conserve our planet’s blue heart. 

Following an insightful and inspiring discussion, UN Special Envoy Peter Thomson presided over a ceremony which connected Nature’s Baton to the deep sea. The DSCC and fellow panelists filled the Baton with messages for the deep. Excerpts of these messages included, 

Dr Lisa Levin:

Your biodiversity astounds, delights, and continues to evolve as a nearly infinite source of wonder. But as you absorb the heat, waste and destruction of one species, all species suffer. That one species must stop and reverse its course. With this baton we seek peaceful coexistence and harmony, with the denizens of the deep and all the peoples of the planet.

Professor Dan Hikuroa:

The ocean is vast, and deep, and impenetrable. It has never been conquered by human beings. With its infinity of life forms, it holds many secrets. With a shift away from Western hubris and human exceptionalism, the law of the sea could be rewritten to recognise an Oceanic vision, one in which the world’s great ocean has its own independent life, and its own right to be healthy and flourish.

Sian Owen:

Once a terrifying, alien space, and still in many ways an enchanting mystery, the deep sea helps to make life possible for us all. It is a cornerstone of our collective existence. This beating blue heart of our planet is in peril. Our ocean needs to be left to heal, and flourish.

The baton has traveled around the world as part of The Ocean Race’s Relay4Nature, gathering messages from heads of government, UN and business leaders, royals, sailors and ocean lovers, calling for decision makers to radically increase their ambitions and action. The Relay has sought to give the ocean a voice on critical issues affecting our planet at landmark events, beginning at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. From Barcelona, the baton sailed onward to Athens, for the Our Ocean Conference. 

Later this month, the Baton will make its first actual journey to the deep sea, joining Dr Levin on an expedition, carrying messages from the DSCC and ocean champions around the world.

The DSCC was convened and launched in 2004 to address what was then perceived as the greatest physical threat to deep ocean health – bottom trawling. Our commitment to the cause of protecting and preserving deep ocean health has only strengthened over the last 20 years, evolving into a robust coalition of over 120 members today. Together, we have achieved breakthroughs that have shaped the global discourse around deep-sea conservation on fisheries management, deep-sea mining, and global ocean governance more broadly.

As was again highlighted at the Ocean Decade Conference, the deep ocean is increasingly threatened by a growing number of human activities, including deep-sea mining and geoengineering, in addition to the continued destruction of vital and vulnerable seabed habitats by bottom fishing. Through the protection of deep-sea ecosystems from bottom fishing, and a precautionary moratorium on deep-sea mining, the DSCC hopes to enact the vision and ambition shared by the community at the Ocean Decade Conference and carried forward by Nature’s Baton.