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This editorial was published in the National on 4 March 2019 in advance of the World Oceans Summit held in Abu Dhabi

It’s called the “blue marble” for a reason.

Looking at the Earth from space, the enormous swaths of brilliant turquoise and navy blue dominate the picture, yet we focus so much of our attention on the landmasses floating amid all the water. Our oceans are the largest ecosystem on Earth – responsible for generating approximately half of the oxygen in the atmosphere and holding approximately 97 per cent of the water on our entire planet.

They are vital to the existence of all species including us.

However, our oceans are under threat. Activities such as mass over-fishing, unprecedented plastic pollution, widespread habitat destruction, climate change, and coastline overpopulation are disrupting food chains, damaging vital marine ecosystems irreparably, and causing our oceans to suffer. What’s more, unlike sovereign countries, which abide within set rules of jurisdiction, the oceans have no set boundaries.

As such, the threat to our oceans requires a cross-country, collaborated solution. No one nation can address this problem on its own. Only global partnerships can underscore our collective commitment towards the protection and preservation of local marine biodiversity, equitable governance of coastal activities, and sustainable management of our marine resources.

The World Ocean Summit, the sixth of which was held in Abu Dhabi in March 2019, is essential in promoting dialogue with key stakeholders. On behalf of Abu Dhabi Government, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and the Department of Economic Development were proud to be bringing this critical conversation to the Middle East for the very first time.

Despite being a desert nation, the sea has always been vital to Abu Dhabi’s history and culture. Located at the geographical epicentre of global trade routes, with one of the most populous coastal communities in the region, Abu Dhabi and the UAE enjoy a rich tradition of trading, seafaring, pearling, shipbuilding, fishing, along with a growing tourism sector.

Preserving our waters is of upmost importance, with the UAE government making crucial investments in blue technology and aquaculture, and implementing major conservation initiatives such as our Marine Water Quality programme, in which we use a network of 22 monitoring stations to collect data to protect public health.

Later in 2019, the UAE will assume presidency of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) until 2022 for the first time since becoming a member in 1999. Organisations such as IORA illustrate the importance of regions coming together to share maritime environmental responsibilities.

The governments of Abu Dhabi and the UAE are proud of its marine conservation work so far, but saving our oceans is a responsibility shared by us all.

By building bridges that connect us, we can come together as one and effect real change. It is in everyone’s best interest to preserve our oceans and ensure that the “blue marble” remains blue.