To commemorate UN World Oceans Day on 6 June 2020, UNU-IAS Operating Unit Ishikawa/Kanazawa (OUIK) held a ‘Noto’s Satoumi Seminar’ virtually which centred around SDG 14 Target 1. The seminar was attended by 120 participants from Japan and discussions brought to light the need to significantly decrease marine pollution, particularly those from land-based activities, and marine plastic waste.
In the key lecture, Professor Michida Yutaka from the University of Tokyo explained the trends and mechanisms of marine plastic pollution – the origins of pollution source, how it travels, how it breaks down, the impact it poses on the environment and possible effects on human health. Professor Yutaka stressed that while it is absolutely necessary to reduce and recycle the use of plastics to combat marine plastic pollution, we also need to rationally assess the impacts of plastic use on nature and human health by supporting our knowledge and decisions on plastic use with solid scientific evidence.
A panel session, moderated by UNU-IAS OUIK researcher Dr Evonne Yiu, with local experts from Noto Region of Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan created a platform for idea sharing relating to how local communities can contribute to achieving SDG 14 Target 1. Panel speaker Ms Chiharu Hayase, a woman skin diver (also known as “Ama” in Japanese) specializing in shellfish fishing and seaweed gathering for 30 years in Wajima City, shared that marine pollution is not only detrimental to the marine ecosystems but also obstructs and poses safety threats to fishing. While local fishers are trying their best to clear marine debris, Ms Hayase expressed hope for a circular economy system whereby the retrieval of marine debris, including plastics, can be used to support livelihood activities in an innovative way by both local communities and the private sector.
The speakers agreed that it is not only important to reduce sources of marine pollution, but also the need for transformative ways to retrieve and recycle marine plastics. Above all, the most effective way is to first also instill a love for oceans in the general public, especially youth.