World Oceans Day in Buenos Aires, Argentina

You may think first of tango, gaucho Don Segundo Sombra, great beef, wines, soja and Terra del Fuego when thinking of Argentina. But on Friday, June 9, the University of Belgrano, Buenos Aires, and Mundus maris joined forces to celebrate World Oceans Day for the first time in this city. The event was attended by a number of speakers from different organisations and specialists who shared their wide range of knowledge and - from their different perspectives - expressed their commitment to the protection of the marine environment.

The audience was mainly made up of students from five universities. The main purpose of the meeting was to raise awareness, especially among younger generations, of the importance of the Argentine marine waters for the country's economy as well as for the protection of life in the oceans in interdependence with the systems of life on land. Emphasis was placed on the need to achieve more sustainable development, which would allow the maintenance of labor sources while ensuring the conservation of the invaluable nature that characterises one of the richest areas of the Atlantic Ocean.

At the beginning of the event, after the opening words of Dr. Lilián Ferré, representing the Rector and Dean of the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences, the institutional video of the event was projected, in memory of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.

CPN Ángel F. Colombo of the Club de Pescadores of Buenos Aires.The president of Mundus maris, Dr. Cornelia E Nauen, then took the floor emphasising the three main threats facing the oceans today: overfishing, pollution and climate change. She encouraged remedial action from local to global to overcome the threats and unlined that everyone could and should do something to give back to the ocean for all the goods and services it had already provided to humans.

Afterwards, Lic. Gabriel Blanco of the Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo Pesquero (INIDEP), explained the importance of the onboard observer programme as well as the research campaigns to assess the state of the marine resources in Argentina. Lic. Guillermo Cañete, Fundación Vida Silvestre, explained what they are doing to achieve setting up five marine protected areas in Argentine waters.

The biologist Aníbal Seleme, President of the Federación de Asociaciones Profesionales de Graduados en Ciencias Biológicas (FAPBIO), drew attention on human misconduct in the face of beached marine mammals. He gave concrete examples and suggested how to educate people to reverse these behaviours.

The podium during the closing In Argentina, unlike some other countries in Latin America, sport fishing is practiced. The Club of Fishermen of Buenos Aires, represented by its president, CPN Ángel Colombo, and two members of the Board of Directors, Lic. Magdalena Contreras and Ing. Leandro Gurruchaga, described the club's educational activities to promote sport fishing with subsequent release. They also elaborated on the actions taken to achieve the enactment of laws that make this practice mandatory.

Dr. Patricia Morales of the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and President of Terra curanda, showed another facet of the struggle for life in the seas, in reference to the refuge that many people seek in other parts of the planet, crossing the difficult waters that separate the continents.

The artist Gonzalo Álvarez explained how he seeks to make children discover their love for nature and life through the arts.

We know that afforestation helps to mitigate the acidification of the oceans. Lic. Manuel Szwarc talked about the concrete afforestation activities with native trees undertaken by the organisation Árboles sin fronteras. Dr. Carolina Luchetti, President of the Asociación de Graduados en Ciencias Biológicas (CABA), highlighted the magnificent opportunity offered by such a meeting to share ideas and concepts for the benefit of our planet.

Dr. Marcelo Morales Yokobori, in charge of the Chairs Marine Resources and Ecology and Conservation at the University Belgrano, conducted the programme for the organizers of the event.

In this way, the meeting echoed the message of United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, who said that World Oceans Day provided an important opportunity to promote a sustainable future.

The formidable organising team - photo by Juan MarcoIn a large metropolis such as Buenos Aires, far from the sea proper but linked to it through the Plata estuary (the "Dulce Mar" as we say metaphorically) shared with the Republic of Uruguay, actions are necessary to increase awareness of the importance of the oceans for life in the country and on the whole planet.

But the information does not reach easily. In the words of one of the speakers of this event, the biologist Guillermo Cañete, we should strive for a way not only to think rationally about the sea, but also develop an emotional bond. Feeling part of the problem and its solution, not just as a spectator, is necessary to achieving the objectives of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Towards the end of the event the certificates were delivered to the speakers, with closing remarks from Dr. Lilián Ferré, followed by a lunch invitation by Mundus maris.

We are thankful to the University of Belgrano, and especially Dr. Hernán Aldana Marcos, Dean of the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences, and the formidable team of students of the Biology course for making this event possible. 

Text by Dr Marcelo Morales Yokobori, photos by Paula, Constanza and Juan Marco.