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‘Chasing Coral’ - A dive into the fascinatingly horrifying state of the ocean


“We need to push the EU and Member States to take a hard stance, not just against marine litter”, but to protect the ocean as a whole, said Emma Priestland from Seas at Risk, at a ‘Chasing Coral’ screening on October 4th in Galeries Cinema in Brussels.


The event was held in anticipation of the Our Ocean Conference in Malta on 5-6 October, and the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi on 4-6 December, with panelists including Dr Laure Ledoux from the European Commission, Thierry Lucas (UN Environment Brussels Office), Emma Priestland (Seas at Risk), and Kait Bolongaro, a Politico journalist. The award-winning documentary ‘Chasing Coral’ on the mass coral bleaching event, emotionally touched both the audience and the speakers, with Thierry Lucas emphasizing his “shock at how fast [coral bleaching] can happen”. He put forward the question ‘if I saw this in my neighborhood, shouldn’t I act”. The hard reality is that many people would not. The hard reality is that we all suffer from bystander apathy. As Priestland so clearly stated, “everyone sees the ocean as a pristine, far-away place”. This is what lies at the root of our inaction, the lack of knowledge on the ‘fascinatingly horrifying’ state of ocean.


With its stunning visuals showcasing the “passion of the team and the beauty of the reefs”, ‘Chasing Coral’ underlined the core message of the four panelists. Communication is key. As moderator, Deborah Seward, Head of the United Nations Regional Information Centre, said “we need to continue to train our eyes to make sure there is information for the young people and policy-makers”, something that is already understood by some, including UN Environment. As part of its #CleanSeas campaign against marine litter, UN Environment will take advantage of the Volvo Ocean Race to inform people about the plastic soup swimming in our ocean. It is through communication that citizens become aware and can hold their governments accountable and “demand legislation to reduce pressures”. Kait Bolongaro, however, remains critical, she believes that there is “a lot of nice talk in Brussels, but a lack of willingness” by the Member States to stay true to their commitments.


According to Ledoux, we must communicate “not the value of extracting, but rather of maintaining,” because it “makes economic sense to conserve the oceans”. Emma Priestland supports this by claiming that locals must learn: a living manta ray is more beneficial in the long term. An ever-critical Bolongaro, stated that it is easy to talk, but we should not ignore that “there are issues on the European level”. The Mediterranean, she says, “is a disaster and 93% overfished”.


One thing is clear: action is needed and it is needed at all levels. As an individual, one can start by signing the UN Environment #BeatPollution Pledge, and communicating about the issue.


Out of sight, can no longer be out of mind.


Don’t forget to watch the highly recommended documentary ‘Chasing Coral’ on Netflix.

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