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Aquariums of the world against marine pollution

Every year, millions of tonnes of waste end up in the ocean. According to estimations, by 2050, the sea could contain more plastic than fish! The European Commission and aquariums are taking action, with the aid of the Oceanographic Institute.

A campaign on an unprecedented scale

In 2017, the European Commission launched the “World Aquariums Against Marine Litter” campaign, with the support of the Oceanographic Museum de Monaco, the European Aquarium Curators’ Union and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. With this initiative, which forms part of the actions taken following the Our Oceans conference (Malta, 5-6 October 2017), the Commission is contributing to the #CleanSeas campaign of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is relying on a coalition of 150 aquariums across 38 countries[2] to raise public awareness of sea pollution by litter of human origin. This campaign was officially launched in Monaco on 27 July 2017 by the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, in the presence of HSH Prince Albert II, head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Erik Solheim, and the CEO of WAZA (the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Doug Cress. The network formed by these bodies, with assistance from the Oceanographic Institute, is coordinated by the European Union.

How can we raise awareness?

Some figures speak for themselves: 10 million tonnes of plastic is thrown into the ocean every year, and by 2050, our seas may contain more plastic than fish. However, 3 million people rely directly on the ocean for their livelihood. In an attempt to reverse the trend, the establishments committed to this campaign against sea litter are acting in multiple ways: displaying a basin in their aquariums filled with marine litter (to have a striking effect on people, as Philippe Pasqua’s installation did at the Oceanographic Museum de Monaco), launching clean beach initiatives, showing awareness films, hosting artistic creations that incorporate litter, etc. All the aquariums involved in this campaign have also broadcast messages via their own communication channels, beginning with their social networks. They have also written and distributed press releases that have given rise to hundreds of articles and TV and radio programmes.

Transforming this campaign into permanent action

In the wake of this success, the European Commission and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – together with five international partners, including the Oceanographic Institute – announced a new undertaking during the Our Ocean conference in 2018: transforming the 2017 campaign into permanent action targeting plastic pollution. In addition to long-term communication campaigns, the leaders of this coalition are encouraging aquariums to join forces with as many partners and potential ‘multipliers’ as possible in order to maximise the impact of the campaign. The challenge is to promote the best possible practices in terms of changing behaviour at all levels: local, regional, national and global. They are all invited to join forces under the banners of #BeReadytoChange and #BeatPlasticPollution, hashtags supported by the European Union and the United Nations. 180 aquariums in 31 countries have already asserted their commitment to this campaign, which was been adopted by UNEP as part of its #CleanSeas campaign in July 2019. The Oceanographic Institute will be retaining its unifying and coordinating role for this global network.