EthicalGEO in the UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development

The UN Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development (Decade) represents a global effort to reverse the trend of declining ocean health observed in the last decades. Through it, stakeholders around the world representing research institutions, UN organizations, business, technology, NGOs, philanthropy and many other sectors, will come together focused on a shared interest, our global ocean. Since the ocean and the services it provides are essential for humanity and to achieving nearly all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it is necessary to align efforts for a sustained and impactful approach. 

Led by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the Decade highlights six key societal objectives that will guide all actions and programs related to ocean sciences from 2021-2030, including a (1) clean ocean, (2) healthy ocean, (3) predicted ocean, (4) safe ocean, (5) sustainably harvested and productive ocean, and (6) transparent and accessible ocean. 

I have the privilege of being part of a working group assigned by the IOC to develop strategies for Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOP) to get involved in the Decade. As such, I often find myself thinking about how younger generations, and in particular ECOP, can contribute to the Decade in a meaningful way. It is quite straightforward to imagine that the contributions of ECOP will have to do with innovative solutions to old problems, the use of technology to explore the ocean and the creation of vast networks of collaboration to solve global problems. 

Alfredo Giron-Nava speaking about the importance of incorporating Early Career Ocean Professionals at the closing remarks panel during the 1st Global Planning Meeting of the UN Decade in Copenhagen. Source: Anna Zivian.

Here, I would like to highlight one more thing that ECOP could contribute, the adoption of better data practices, including the proper and ethical use of geographical information. For example, today we can track fishing activities in real time. This is helpful for tracking whether Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are being properly enforced and also to create maps of our usage of different parts of the ocean. However, these data sets can be used for much more sensitive, ethical objectives, such as the detection of fishing ships operated by slaves and other illegal activities.

Opening up the dialogue about the ethical use of geographic information as part of the Decade’s framework is important to ensure that in 2030 we have not only achieved the six societal objectives, but also that we have established good practices on how to use the ever evolving set of new technologies to study people and the oceans.

I am Alfredo Giron and I was born in Mexico City. Most of my research has focused on developing methods to assess fisheries sustainability in rural communities and linking the results to their economic development. Through my work I realized that we don’t have an understanding of how to define poverty in these communities. Thus, my EthicalGEO project is to develop a framework to characterize different sphere/types of poverty in fishing communities and use this information to create a global map. The EthicalGEO fellowship will give me the opportunity to exchange ideas with other fellows and world experts and collaboratively create an impactful and meaningful map of the prevalence of poverty in fishing communities.