Humanity must take care of the seas, which generate half the oxygen we breathe and which represent a vital source of protein for the daily lives of billions of people.

The ocean, which covers more than two-thirds of the planet’s surface, also plays a key role for life on Earth by mitigating the impacts of climate change.

But the cost is considerable.

By absorbing around a quarter of CO2 pollution, even as emissions have increased by 50% over the past 60 years, the sea has become more acidic, destabilizing aquatic food chains and reducing its ability to capture ever more gases. carbonic.

And, absorbing more than 90% of the excess heat caused by global warming, the ocean is experiencing powerful sea heat waves that are destroying precious coral reefs and spreading oxygen-deprived dead zones.

“We still only have a small idea of ​​the scale of the devastation wrought by climate change on the health of the oceans,” Charlotte de Fontaubert, the Bank’s leading blue economy expert, told AFP. world.

At the current rate, plastic pollution will triple by 2060, to one billion tonnes per year, according to a recent OECD report.

Already, micro-plastics cause the death of a million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals each year.

Participants at the Lisbon meeting will discuss proposals to address this, which range from recycling to a total ban on plastic bags.

The issue of overfishing is also on the agenda for the five-day conference, co-hosted by Portugal and Kenya after being postponed several times due to the pandemic.

“At least a third of wild fish stocks are overfished and less than 10% of the ocean is protected,” Kathryn Mathews, scientific director of the American NGO Oceana, told AFP.

“Illegal fishing vessels wreak havoc with impunity, in coastal waters and on the high seas,” she said.

– Protective areas –

The debates will also focus on a possible moratorium aimed at protecting the seabed from mining in search of rare metals needed to manufacture batteries for the flourishing sector of electric vehicles.

A coalition bringing together nearly a hundred countries is also advocating a flagship measure aimed at declaring protection zones covering 30% of the planet’s oceans and land.

Another central subject, “blue food” supposed to make the oceans a means of subsistence that is both sustainable and socially responsible.

“Wild fish from the sea may be a source of protein and micronutrients that can provide one billion people with a healthy meal a day, forever,” says Mathews.

Many ministers and some heads of state, including French President Emmanuel Macron, expected on Thursday, will take part in this meeting which, however, is not intended to become a formal negotiation session.

“We are moving too slowly”, all the same regretted on Sunday the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Portuguese Antonio Guterres, during an initiative organized on a beach in the suburbs of Lisbon in the presence of the American actor Jason Momoa, who embodies the superhero Aquaman in the cinema.