A few days ago, on Tuesday, June 8, the World Oceans Day was celebrated with the aim of raising awareness on the future of our oceans by emphasizing their benefits, informing of human impacts on them and, therefore, fostering their sustainable management.
The ocean is our biggest ecosystem with an incredible biodiversity. It produces several benefits such as harvestable goods (it represents the primary source of food for 3.5 billion people) and atmospheric heat and CO2 absorption. Its oxygen generation accounts for 50% of the oxygen produced on earth, therefore allowing our life on the planet. Furthermore, the value of ocean economy is around US$1.5 trillion per annum. A study carried out by OECD (2016) estimates that it contributes roughly 2–3 per cent to the world’s GDP and activities related to the ocean correspond to 350 million jobs.
Despite its benefits, however, this delicate ecosystem is threatened by ocean acidification, litter and plastic pollution, reduction of biodiversity, overexploitation of marine resources with unsustainable fishing, and habitat destruction. According to One Ocean Foundation, the Mediterranean Sea is even more at risk than other marine ecosystems. This is due to overfishing – which endangers its unique biodiversity –, pressures on its coastal environment exerted by a high degree of urbanisation and industrialisation of its coast and a lower connection with the open ocean.
Yet, this scenario has not led to resignation. In recent years, more and more organisations and startups have been making their way toward a more sustainable management of seas. Indeed, startups have shown more flexibility than traditional companies and more responsiveness than governments. With their boost to innovative business models and technologies, they can build a path for governments and other companies to follow towards a more sustainable approach to oceans. Hence, in this respect, the potential of youth and innovation is tremendous, and it seems to play a key role.
The UN Oceans Conference (2017), indeed, stressed ‘the importance of gender equality, and the crucial role of women and youth in the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’. Besides, The European Commission (2014) underlined how the contribution of innovation to the blue economy can produce ‘growth and job creation but also maintain public support for the commercial use of marine resources while ensuring the protection of the marine environment’.
Considerable efforts towards innovation and sustainability are being made by the startups involved in WaterMedyin project. Their transition to cleaner sources of energy can significantly contribute to the fight against climate change: the innovative production of dry fruits and vegetables through solar energy or the choice of building a fish-farm by using clean energy are only some of the solutions devised to this aim. Besides, the production of cat litter made out of algae, the idea of recycling waste from seafood processing plants or similar solutions introduced by the selected startups can help tackle marine plastic pollution. In the wake of the promising use of digital and automation technologies, the IoT management solution for greenhouses or intelligent water-filter are key to a sustainable agriculture and water management.
Thus, the action of startups can prove crucial for the future of our oceans and their great potential in addressing the abovementioned threats represents a tangible hope for the preservation of the earth’s blue lungs.