The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, a.k.a. COP26, concluded earlier this month in Glasgow, Scotland. World leaders, prominent scientists, and more gathered at the summit to share insights and create solutions to slow global warming. Gill Rodrigues, the International SeaKeepers Society’s head of international partnerships, represented the non-profit during the meetings. Here, she shares what COP26 means to the future of our planet and especially how SeaKeepers is taking action.
Q: Why is ocean conservation and research important?
A: Decision-makers agree that we can’t address the climate crisis without protecting the ocean. The vastness of our oceans has always been unfathomable, and it is relatively unexplored. But we know it plays a key role in our climate. Better understanding of deep-sea biodiversity will offer insight into how these systems influence the climate and are influenced by climate change.
Q: What was the highlight for you?
A: On the first day, I attended SeaKeepers’ partner and longtime supporter Schmidt Ocean Institute’s session. It was a vibrant, capacity event with a live question and answer session. The panel focused on climate impacts in the deep sea and how we can better understand and mitigate this in order to improve the overall health of our planet.
The panel included ocean experts focused on high seas, biodiversity, and seabed mapping. They highlighted how little we know about ocean biodiversity, that one scientific discovery can change our whole perception of the deep sea and our knowledge is changing daily. It sometimes feels the deeper we go, the less we know. But it’s all about readjustment, and there is so much yet to explore.
The most important thing we can do is make changes at ground level. SeaKeepers is working to connect the public with the oceans. We hope to do this by engaging the yachting community and encouraging them to harness their power and reach to support ocean research and conservation, whilst also engaging students globally in what they can do in their coastal communities.
Q: What role did SeaKeepers play in COP26?
A: I attended this conference to represent all SeaKeepers and to include us in this critical conversation. This summit has never been more relevant, especially with the launching of our Carbon Impact Program in 2022. Working with vessels, ocean activists, and students has put us in an extraordinary position to encourage sustainable practices at sea by measuring carbon impact. Our Green Guide to Boating will raise awareness on ocean sustainability and conservation by offering resources, advice, and examples of what makes a green boater. This project will allow us to take the next step in protecting the oceans we love.
Q: What is your final takeaway?
A: This conference allowed me to represent SeaKeepers in an historic opportunity. As part of one ecosystem, we have the power to change the future, and the outcome of this conference has the power to do it. The SeaKeepers motto has never been more important than it is today: “Research. Educate. Protect and Restore.”
International SeaKeepers Society seakeepers.org