Skip to content


UN Ocean Conference focused on innovation to stop the rapid decline of ocean health

20 June 2022

Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) scientists will play a prominent role at the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference from 27 June to 1 July in Lisbon, Portugal, in recognition of their expertise and as part of PML’s commitment to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sunset image of the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge in Lisbon Portugal with the Tagus river in the foreground

Aimed at seeking science-based and innovative solutions to protect and improve the health of the ocean, the event is being co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal with the overall theme of “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions.”

The Conference’s call for action, in-line with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, stresses the critical need for scientific knowledge and marine technology to support the effective conservation and sustainable use of the ocean’s resources. The Conference will also underscore the need to harness nature-based solutions including mangroves, salt marsh and seagrass - all of which are known to have major potential to mitigate climate change impacts.

Heads of Government and State, together with leaders from the private sector, the scientific community and other partners, are tasked with “charting a new pathway that will ensure the protection and conservation of the ocean and its resources”.

The conference will comprise eight interactive dialogues with PML’s Director of Science, Professor Stephen Widdicombe, as the Moderator of the Dialogue: “Minimizing and Addressing Ocean Acidification, Deoxygenation and Ocean Warming” co-chaired by senior governmental speakers from USA and Jamaica.

Professor Widdicombe, who is also the Co-Chair of GOA-ON (the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network), is playing a prominent role in further side events including the “Ocean Acidification Research for Sustainability” session on June 29th which will highlight the UN Ocean Decade-endorsed Ocean Acidification Research for Sustainability (OARS) programme.

Professor Widdicombe said:

“It is clear that the health of the Ocean and the planet as a whole hangs in the balance, with our future depending on the choices we make today. The multiple stressors caused by human activity are already having major impacts on marine ecosystems and organisms with potentially catastrophic implications for the communities and economies which depend on the Ocean’s invaluable resources. We need to take this opportunity to fully capitalize on innovation, technology and science-based solutions to protect and restore the marine environment. The Ocean Conference is a catalyst to bring together stakeholders and decision-makers from across the globe and galvanise action towards a more sustainable ocean future.”

Other PML scientists attending Lisbon include:

  • Dr Victor Martinez-Vicente. A Bio-optical oceanographer who leads research at PML on remote sensing detection of marine plastic debris pollution and harmful algal bloom detection, Dr Martinez-Vicente will be participating in the “Addressing marine plastic pollution: How international cooperation and partnerships across science & technology can build capacities and lead to systems innovation” session on June 28 and presenting as part of the official side event “Integrating Marine Litter Monitoring to Inform Action” on June 29 

  • Professor Steve Groom. PML’s Head of Science for Earth Observation, Professor Groom is presenting as part of the “Blue growth, Innovation & Entrepreneurship summer school event ahead of the Conference for PORTWIMS (Portugal Twinning for Innovation and Excellence in Marine Science and Earth Observation). (20-24 June) 

  • Dr Ana Queirós, A senior Benthic Ecologist, Dr Queirós will be attending in her capacity as an internationally-recognised expert on seaweed blue carbon and climate change ecology.

​Ocean Conference schedule

In addition to plenary sessions, there are eight interactive dialogues focusing on a wide range of ocean issues: marine pollution, ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean warming, sustainable fisheries and other ocean-based economies, scientific knowledge and marine technology, and the international legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources.

These dialogues are designed to offer individuals and communities opportunities to forge bold commitments to advance ocean action.

There will also be side events as well as four Special Events.

  • Youth and Innovation Forum (24-26 June)
  • Localising Action for the Ocean: Local and Regional Governments Forum (25 June)
  • High-Level Symposium on Water (27 June)
  • Sustainable Blue Economy Investment Forum (28 June)

 The full programme can be found at:

The need for ocean action

The first Ocean Conference, which took place in New York in June 2017, highlighted the status of the Ocean, the impact of human activities and the pervasive changes taking place below water.
More recently, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s State of the Global Climate 2021 report, the world’s oceans grew to their warmest and most acidic levels on record in 2021.
Carbon emissions from human activities are causing ocean warming, acidification and oxygen loss, which in turn threaten organisms and ecosystem services, and negatively impact food security, the tourism industry and the economy.

What are the expected Conference outcomes?

There are several outcomes expected at the Ocean Conference and these will be reported on by the co-chairs, the governments of Portugal and Kenya:

Member States will adopt a Declaration to implement and facilitate the protection and conservation of the ocean and its resources.

Stakeholders from governments and businesses to civil society are also expected to make concrete and realistic voluntary commitments to address the various ocean-related issues affecting their communities, countries and beyond.

The eight thematic dialogues will review the opportunities and challenges with the ambition to advance commitments and action on wide-ranging ocean issues. A report from the relevant chairs is expected at the end of the conference. 

Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water

Adopted in 2015 as an integral aspect of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its set of 17 transformative goals, Goal 14 stresses the need to conserve and sustainably use the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources.

Advancement of Goal 14 is guided by specific targets that focus on an array of ocean issues, including reducing marine pollution, protecting marine and coastal ecosystems, minimizing acidification, ending illegal and over-fishing, increasing investment in scientific knowledge and marine technology, and respecting international law that calls for the safe and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources.

#SaveOurOcean Actions:

SDG 14 Icon showing text "Life below water" and an icon of a fish

For more information:

Share this story: