Home>YLS 2023 - How to protect our ocean


YLS 2023 - How to protect our ocean

Replay the session and read a summary below:



  • Vivienne Dosoo, Environmental Policy, PSIA
  • Rémi Parmentier, Director, The Varda Group
  • Monica Verbeek, CEO, Seas at Risk

Moderated by:

  • Glen Wright, Senior Research Fellow, International Ocean Governance, IDDRI

Introduced by:

  • Charlee Heath, International Security, PSIA


Our oceans are threatened by climate change and growing pollution. We still know little about the impact of human activity on the oceans ecosystems. Yet, we are sure of one thing: as Rémi Parmentier said, “without a living ocean, there is not a living planet”. Charlee Heath introduced the panel by diving into the stakes of ocean protection. “Oceans are at the crossroads of major environmental changes. [...] These global challenges require global solutions”, she said.

Looking at the hopeful side of ocean protection

Glen Wright opened the debate by asking the panelists an uncommon question: what has given them hope in the last year? Monica Verbeek immediately thought of the deep sea mining issue. Although humanity might have the technical ability to do it, awareness of the danger to the ecosystems is preventing countries from going for that option. “The deep sea is the ultimate frontier”, she said. She is hopeful that humanity won’t make the same mistakes that brought us to this situation. Then, Rémi Parmentier pointed out he was glad that the ocean’s challenges were finally being considered a global risk in the international scene. “After 50 years of advocacy for ocean conservation, one of the most important things I can do is exchange and share experiences and views with the leaders of tomorrow”, he said. Vivienne Dosoo is hopeful about the young generation reconnecting to nature. “I believe ocean protection is also an issue that needs attention from bottom up. If nature suffers, we as humanity suffer”, she said.

The momentum for ocean protection

Following up on deep sea mining, Monica Verbeek presented 2022 as a “pivotal year”. Rémi Parmentier pointed out the key international conferences throughout the year, in which the seabed appeared as an area to be preserved: the UN Ocean Conference and the COP27 among them. “It is not often that we have the opportunity to stop the damage before it starts happening”, he said. Work is encouraged through the 2021-2030 United Nation Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. For Vivienne Dosoo, if the momentum didn’t exist now, it would be our responsibility to create it.

The fight against plastic

Glen Wright then introduced the matter of plastics. “Plastic is everywhere, and we don’t necessarily have the technology to fight it. What can a new international treaty bring into a question that is quite technological?”, he asked. Rémi Parmentier shared an idea that had been published in the research paper From Blue Food for Thought to Blue Food for Action, to which he had contributed. “We should treat micro and nano plastic substances as we treat radioactive ones”, he said. He believes in the efficiency of treaties. He drew a parallelism with the World Health Organisation against the tobacco industry: over the years, the ban on smoking indoors in public spaces was normalised. Though he asks as well to be mindful of which companies take part in the negotiations. Seas at Risk has been working on legislation proposals to ban single use plastics. “Ultimately, to prevent plastic from getting into the ocean we need to address the way we produce it and consume it”, Monica Verbeek said.The consumer’s choice has a great influence, but we also need to address the question “where does plastic come from and why do we have so much?”. Then we are directed to the fossil industry. “You need to make sure it stops there, in production rather than consumption, before it goes into the ocean”, she said.

The need for degrowth, or an economy of well-being

For Vivienne Dosoo, “degrowth” is an essential concept to put on the table. “It means consuming less, producing less, and focusing on what is most important for our wellbeing”, she said. She expressed her concerns on how, as it is a revolutionary concept, we all need to fight for it to achieve it. Both her and Monica Verbeek agreed on the need for systemic change. “We won a lot of battles, but we are losing the war. We need to change our system, we need to change the political economy”, Monica Verbeek said. Then she drew on the example of fisheries. Although they are one of the main reasons for marine biodiversity loss, it is impossible to just ban them, for many people would lose their job. So Seas at Risk engages in fruitful discussions with the fishers. “Everywhere you have seeds of small local initiatives, respectful of the environment, and those are the examples that need to be brought to policy makers. So that they see that there are alternatives”, she said. Rémi Parmentier elaborated on the tool of subsidies. “Who do we support?”, he believes well-oriented subsidies are part of the solution to favour clean energies.  “We are looking for a commitment to eliminate harmful subsidies, those that lead to overfishing, for example. We need balance, and subsidies have a role to play as guardians of the fish”, he said.

The panel ended with a variety of questions from the audience. On the question of investments, it was made clear that the private sector was not the enemy. On the contrary, it needs to be an ally, for ocean protection needs funding. Degrowth does not mean a stop to development, but it is a matter of change in the parameters we use to measure economic growth, giving priority to well-being over purely the GDP indicator. Vivienne concluded the panel by expressing she is hopeful that the generation present today at the Youth and Leaders Summit 2023 is actively engaged to make this momentum for our environment protection will reach the ocean. “We have the opportunity to act from bottom up”.

(c) An article by Lola Lopez Lungo, a student in the Joint Master in Journalism and International Affairs.

More information about the Youth & Leaders Summit 2023.