Known as the real lungs of the Earth, the ocean makes life on this planet possible. It supplies us with at least 50% of our oxygen and is the world’s largest carbon sink, which is particularly important in the context of climate change and rising greenhouse gas emissions. But the vastness of the ocean does not mean that it is immune to the impacts of human activity, such as overfishing, pollution, acidification or marine habitat destruction.
Despite the fact that the ocean is home to somewhere between 500,000 and 10 million marine species, and more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods, there is still a staggering lack of knowledge about it.
The United Nations Ocean Conference, which will be held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2022, will aim to further progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14: Life Below Water, by adopting an intergovernmental declaration on science-based and innovative areas of action, along with a list of voluntary commitments to support SDG14 implementation.
Recognizing the need for greater awareness to drive action on ocean conservation at all levels, EJN will bring a cohort of international journalist fellows to the conference to facilitate reporting on this work worldwide – in particular, to reach audiences in low- and middle-income countries. Fellows will also benefit from training and support from senior environmental journalists while attending the conference, which will be, for many, their first time reporting from such an event.
The conference was originally slated to take place in summer 2020 but was postponed for two years in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. To maintain momentum in the lead-up to the conference, and to celebrate the launch of the UN Decade of Ocean Science in 2021, EJN hosted a series of webinars to help journalists to access the tools and resources they need to report on contemporary ocean issues. Following this, the launch of the Ocean Story Grants campaign saw 11 ocean journalists receive funding and mentorship to produce stories on ocean issues relevant to SDG14.
The UN Ocean Conference Fellowships
These fellowships will provide practical support and opportunities for grassroots journalists and local media from primarily low- and middle-income countries. Attendance at such conferences is vital in ensuring that otherwise under-represented voices are part of the discussion, and that journalists have the knowledge and skills they need to report on and provide transparency for the actions of negotiators and other policymakers.
Ocean Story Grants
Through this reporting grant EJN is commissioning stories that seek to investigate emerging and long-standing issues facing ocean conservation and sustainable resource use, to capture the importance and urgency of the threats facing our world’s waters. Working with 11 journalists on topics from single-use plastics in the Philippines to anthropogenic noise in the Adriatic Sea, EJN has encouraged content production, while providing journalists’ opportunities for mentorship, capacity building and networking with their peers and expert sources.
‘Pescas, sustentabilidade e jornalismo’ invited experts from three Portuguese-speaking countries – Brazil, Portugal, and Mozambique – to discuss country-specific fisheries issues and to explain how journalists can improve coverage of fisheries and sustainability. Our second webinar, ‘The Emerging Role of AI in Fighting Oceanic Crime: A Journalist’s Guide’, invited industry experts from The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Guardian, amongst others, to discuss how remote sensing, AI and algorithms are changing the way we detect illegal activity in our ocean and how journalists can use available data sources to report on it.
In early 2021 we founded the Ocean Journalists Network, or OceanNet. This online discussion group for ocean journalists has over 300 members, and is a collaborative space for reporters to share training or grant opportunities, webinars, discuss stories and resources and connect with other ocean journalists in their countries, as well as journalists covering similar issues in other regions.
This project has been implemented with the generous support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch).