Rewriting the Future: Marine Protected Areas and 30×30

Guest Post by: Brigitta Gunawan, OceanEcho 30×30 participant

The ocean—home to a world that serves wonders in sustaining lives; encapsulating the past, present, and future of this generation, and those to come. A resilient force of nature that connects us through the very air we breathe. Whether near or far from the coast, the ocean is a provider, a giver of more than what we could possibly comprehend.

As a little girl who took her first steps on the tropical shores of Bali, Indonesia, I am among those enthralled by the vast, majestic blue stretching far beyond the horizon. One step after another, I was enchanted by the warm grains of sand slowly moving beneath my feet and the sea sprawling endless to the unknown. I saw a future yet to be discovered. Now, as a high school student graduating in 2022, I hope to better understand the ocean I so dearly love as I pursue my studies in marine biology.

#30x30Indonesia sign at a coral transplantation site (Credit: Nuansa Pulau & CTC)

The ocean has become part of who I am. It stores memories of my childhood, sparking joy and comfort with every moment of recollection. Growing up as a competitive swimmer, I have always shared an indescribable bond with water, finding tranquility in being submerged and surrounded by a force so powerful yet so calm. I soon recognized my passion for the ocean and its marine life, with a particular interest in snorkeling—becoming a guest in a foreign, underwater world. Having witnessed firsthand the detrimental effects of human misconduct on the marine environment, I believe it is our responsibility to protect it and become a wave of change. We have ignored its warning for too long. The ocean needs groundbreaking action to protect it from rising temperatures and rising sea levels. Now. 

Marine Protected Areas: A Promising Solution

Marine Protected Areas, also known as MPAs, are regions where no extractive or destructive activities can legally occur. They are precisely what we need to generate recovery for the ocean we have so heavily exploited. Can you imagine a future where activities like overfishing, mining, and trawling are prohibited? A future where marine life is allowed to thrive and recover? 

The implementation of MPAs across the world does exactly that. It helps safeguard the ocean through systematic management that allows the sea to recover. Less than 3% of the ocean is fully protected, and we know this is not enough to hinder the effects of climate change in the years to come. Science tells us that we need to protect at least 30% of the world’s ocean by 2030, but this can only be achieved if we all unite and call world leaders to act.  

This is where advocacy comes into place. We need to voice our support for the global goal to protect our ocean—to protect at least 30% of our ocean by 2030 through a network of Marine Protected Areas. This goal is widely known as “30×30,” and one in which youth have been playing an important role in calling for change. Whether through indirect efforts like advocacy and education or direct restoration efforts, everyone has a role in raising awareness by upholding these monumental pillars of conservation.

Sign advertising the webinar “Inspiring the Youth to Protect Our Ocean” (Credit: 30×30 Indonesia)

EarthEcho International’s OceanEcho 30×30 Fellowship

Since July 2021, I have had the pleasure of working with EarthEcho International alongside nine incredible youth leaders, ages 17-25, from eight countries as part of the OceanEcho 30×30 Fellowship. Aiming to engage with community members and government officials, we are leading local action in our respective countries to bolster support for the inclusion of a global 30×30 ocean goal in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Post-2020 Framework.

EarthEcho International is a global nonprofit founded on the belief that youth have the power to change our ocean planet. It was established by explorer and advocate Philippe Cousteau, Jr., in honor of his father Philippe Cousteau Sr., and grandfather, legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. EarthEcho leverages storytelling, STEM education, and the innovation of young leaders to create a global youth movement to restore our ocean planet. EarthEcho reaches more than two million people in 146 countries, providing original content, immersive experiences, and trusted resources free of charge for youth and the educators and community leaders who work with them.

30×30 Indonesia

Through the OceanEcho 30×30 Fellowship, I had the fantastic opportunity to amplify the need for Marine Protected Areas in my home country of Indonesia. Having noticed the gap of knowledge between coastal and landlocked communities, 30×30 Indonesiaa youth-led movement that aims to educate and mobilize public support towards the protection of our ocean—has hosted outreach events reaching over 10,000 people, with more than 1,500 directly participating across the country and throughout South East Asia. These efforts are monumental in directing attention towards the ongoing conservation practices in the country. With the fantastic support, guidance, and expertise from EarthEcho and the OceanEcho 30×30 Fellows, I became the first to launch #30x30Indonesia,a social media initiative aiming to collect voices in support of 30×30 as both a national and global goal. 

Members of local youth organization, Nuansa Pulau, holding the sign #30x30Indonesia (Credit: Nuansa Pulau)

This movement has garnered the attention of Bali’s Provincial Government’s Marine and Fisheries Service, where they posted a picture holding the sign #30x30Indonesia as part of an article published on their official website.

Indonesia aims to safeguard at least 32.5 million hectares of marine areas by 2030, yet these efforts have not gained adequate public attention. To make this knowledge readily accessible amidst the pandemic, I designed and distributed free, reusable 30×30 masks. The mask’s batik motif is called Batik Parang, which embodies the spirit of never giving up, just like the ocean waves that never stop moving. This should remind us to strive towards the future we envision for the generations to come.

Collaborating with the Coral Triangle Center (CTC) and local youth organization Nuansa Pulau, I was able to express my gratitude to local heroes who focus their efforts on ocean conservation and restoration. They joined in support through pictures taken during their coral reef monitoring, rehabilitation, and planting program at Nusa Penida, a marine protected area off the coast of Bali.

An image of the 30×30 Indonesia Reusable Mask (Credit: Brigitta Gunawan)

For another critical aspect of my campaign, I collected pictures of people holding #30x30Indonesia signs to show their support for the global goal of implementing marine protected areas. Through these images, over 400 people voiced their support for 30×30. These have been compiled into short clips and educational material, which can be found on social media platforms, particularly the @30x30Indonesia Instagram account. 

To engage with different communities across the country, I connected with athletes and students from over ten schools through virtual and on-site ocean literacy events. These events emphasize the importance of the ocean and 30×30 through interactive workshops and brought together 700 students of varying ages. 

#30x30Indonesia signs at a coral transplantation site (Credit: Nuansa Pulau & CTC)

I also hosted the webinar “Inspiring the Youth to Protect Our Ocean,” for 118 participants from 13 countries, most from South East Asia. We had speakers from the CTC and ASEAN Youth Organization’s AYO Enviro, collectively educating the attendees about the importance of ocean protection.

To date, this campaign has reached Bali’s provincial government, teachers, students, athletes, coaches, tourist service providers, and tourists, as well as youth across South East Asia. This proves that when people, regardless of their geographical locations and backgrounds, come together to work towards a common goal, a better future is possible. It is critical for everyone, landlocked and in coastal communities, to make changes for the better, however small they may be. Whether it is by starting the conversation on Marine Protected Areas, reducing plastic waste, or signing the 30×30 petition, we all have the power to make change happen. 

Image of a school outreach event (Credit: Brigitta Gunawan)

One thing is for sure: knowledge and awareness fuel change. Catalyzing that change is crucial. We must realize that there is only one ocean, the ocean we have exploited; and when we fail to recognize why we need the sea, we neglect the future of generations to come.

Take a deep breath. Visualize the future we need. We are all capable authors of this new chapter, and there is hope. Now is the time for us all to rewrite the future of our ocean planet.

Campaign images on Instagram (Credit: 30×30 Indonesia)

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