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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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    Celebrating the Seven Seas

    Danial Norjidi

    World Oceans Day is observed on June 8 each year, with the aim of celebrating the world’s shared ocean, raising awareness on the crucial role the ocean plays in people’s lives, as well as the important ways people can help protect it.

    According to the official United Nations (UN) World Oceans Day website, “On this day, we have an opportunity to raise global awareness of the benefits humankind derives from the ocean and our individual collective duty to use its resources sustainably. Future generations will also depend on the oceans for their livelihoods.

    “Together with the UN and our partners, we celebrate all that the ocean gives us every day, from the oxygen we breathe to the inspiration that moves our poets.”

    Each year, the UN marks World Oceans Day through an annual event coordinated by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (Office of Legal Affairs).

    This year’s occasion features the theme ‘Revitalisation: Collective Action for the Ocean’ as well as the first hybrid celebration of the annual event, hosted in-person at the UN Headquarters in New York and broadcast live.

    In line with World Oceans Day, representatives from three local NGOs spoke with the Bulletin about its significance.

    AN OPPORTUNITY TO CELEBRATE AND HONOUR THE OCEAN

    One such NGO is Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) Brunei, an organisation that is a part of a global community collaborating to solve the greatest challenges facing the ocean.

    Speaking ahead of World Oceans Day 2022, Country Hub Leader for SOA Brunei Shaima Misli described it as an exciting event, “as we will be dedicating a day to productive discussions and action planning towards protecting our ocean”.

    “I believe since the world had been hit with the pandemic, many people are now realising the power of collaboration and it is even easier now to connect with people from different countries,” she added.

    Shaima also noted that the UN and Oceanic Global had prepared an impressive line-up of conference talks, sharing sessions and more in conjunction with the World Oceans Day, and expressed hope that people in Brunei would take advantage of the hybrid event and the opportunity to learn and share more about the ocean.

    Sharing her thoughts the theme for this year’s occasion, Shaima said, “It highlights the importance of a collective effort in protecting and rebuilding the health of our ocean.

    “It provides an opportunity for us to celebrate and honour our ocean, because our ocean and our waterways play a vital role in providing air, food and water to humans. But the ocean is also important to all of the creatures that live in it.

    “Over half of the oxygen we breathe is provided by the ocean. Each breath you take comes from the ocean. It is an important source of protein for billions of people on the planet. Every drop of water, indeed everything we drink, has come from the ocean. It is our life support system and if we cause the said system to fail, then all living things on this planet will suffer.”

    Shaima added that World Oceans Day 2022 is significant to Brunei Darussalam “because we need to learn about the impacts we have on our ocean and create movements to solve some of the most urgent issues that our ocean is facing. Our country has been blessed with beautiful rainforests and aquatic lives. However, many of us, either consciously or otherwise, have harmed our environment in one way or another.

    “My hope is that on World Oceans Day, we will see different stakeholders start to take accountability and in turn, take actions towards preserving our ocean more.”

    Speaking on how World Oceans Day aligns with her organisation, Shaima said, “Our mission at SOA is to restore the health of the ocean within our lifetime and we aim to do this by connecting and supporting youth, entrepreneurs and experts to create solutions for our ocean.”

    She noted that SOA Brunei just wrapped up its AdvocaSea Camp, a five-day programme that brought together a group of 25 youth aged between 18 to 23 to raise awareness on ocean conservation and to create solutions for the environment. “Three groups of our participants have won a grant to execute their follow-up projects and we are excited to share more with the public.”

    Sharing a closing comment, Shaima added, “I personally would urge everyone to go out and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer, to really experience how life is below water and more. I want people to develop a deeper sense of appreciation towards the ocean and the environment, in general, because only then, they are motivated to protect it.”

    BRINGING AWARENESS

    Green Brunei is a social enterprise that aims to promote environmental sustainability through youth-led initiatives in the fields of education, conservation and advocacy.

    Sharing her thoughts on World Oceans Day, Green Brunei co-founder and Community Engagement Director Khairunnisa binti Haji Ash’ari said it helps bring awareness and celebrate the beauty of our ocean.

    “Not many are aware the importance of the ocean for our ecosystem, as the ocean is not only a home to many marine lives, but also provides oxygen and it is the biggest producer.

    “Human actions have disrupted the balance of our ocean and in turn contributed to climate change. It is our job to restore it back, to undo what we have done as much as we can,” she said.

    She highlighted that the theme for this year’s occasion is aligned with today’s problems. “As the world is becoming more focussed in consumerism, it has become even more important for everyone to play a part – a collective action – in ensuring that the resources we use will not be detrimental to our environment in the long run. This responsibility also extends to corporations and businesses as much as it extends to us as consumers.”

    Khairunnisa further noted that, as a country that traditionally relied on the oceans and rivers as a source of living, the message conveyed by the World Oceans Day 2022 very much reverberates with the Sultanate.

    “While our population is small, plans must be in place for when the demand for fish and other seafood products increase as time goes by. Without proper care, we risk destroying the delicate balance of the ecosystem, which will surely cause a cascade of detrimental effects, resulting in the loss of biodiversity and environmental integrity.

    “Therefore, upholding the principles of the World Oceans Day will always lead to the continued existence of pristine characteristics of Brunei Darussalam’s environment.”

    World Oceans Day 2022 also very much aligns with Green Brunei’s main advocacy of environmental sustainability, said Khairunnisa. “In particular, the beach cleanups and educational talks on waste management has been a major platform in conveying the message on the Ocean’s important role. While Green Brunei does not have anything planned at this juncture, it can be expected that beach and river cleanups will resume following the shift into Brunei Darussalam’s endemic phase.”

    Concluding, Khairunnisa said, “The ocean is the planet’s life support, it is our life support. To ensure a sustainable future, we must protect and preserve a healthy marine ecosystem.

    World Oceans Day is just one day but through it, I hope people will continue to try to make choices that do not further damage our ecosystem. Please support businesses that contribute to helping our environment, join events that keep our coastal and waters clean, appreciate our natural heritage and help preserve what is left of it.”

    A REMINDER OF THE OCEAN’S IMPORTANCE TO EVERYDAY LIFE

    Another to speak with the Bulletin was Reef Check Brunei (RCB) Acting Secretariat Frederick Chong.

    Founded in 2016, RCB is an NGO dedicated to the conservation of coral reefs in Brunei Darussalam through education, research and conservation. “We aim to create a network of volunteer team that are trained as EcoDivers to regularly monitor and report on reefs health in our annual reef check survey and stimulate actions in protecting and rehabilitating damaged reefs,” Frederick explained.

    With regards to World Oceans Day, Frederick said, “I always believe that how we live every day greatly reflects how the ocean and planet Earth resonate. World Oceans Day is often a reminder for me and most of us that the world’s ocean is a major player to people’s livelihood such as jobs, food and even medicinal needs. It is a critical part on our ecosystem in our everyday life. We can’t take it for granted.”

    Sharing his thoughts on the World Oceans Day 2022 theme, he said, “It is one ocean, one climate, one future – together. The last two years was a brief respite for the world to recover and recuperate.

    “In RCB we have planned and are now actively taking more action to involve not just the general community but core leaders as well,” he continued. “Hence, this year’s theme fits perfectly for us to spearhead actions to ensure prolonged recovery with more sustainable policies and plans.”

    Regarding RCB’s plans for World Oceans Day, Frederick shared, “On June 18, 2022, RCB Chairman Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, three key project leads Wendy Han, Amanda Young (Marine Biologist), Mark Rossow, and myself would like to showcase our pilot project, Coral Restoration Brunei.

    “We have planned to celebrate World Oceans Day with the Fisheries Department. We will be diving with the Fishery team near Pelong Rocks to demonstrate how we propagate, maintain and collect coral growth data. We also extended the invitation to two leading dive centres as they have been strong supporters by providing manpower and resources to our project.

    “Moving forward, we welcome any certified divers to join us and have a hands-on coral restoration and other projects after this event,” he added.

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