Why every day should be World Oceans Day…


The theme of this year's WOD - Gender and Oceans, UN Room 4, New York.

Every day should be World Oceans Day, but until my wish is granted we’re grateful for the one day a year the oceans get global attention.

Welcome to UN WOD 2019!

In 2008 the United Nations officially recognized World Oceans Day to be celebrated on the 8th June every year. Since that was a Saturday in 2019, the celebratory event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York took place on Friday 7th themed: Gender and Oceans.

Judith Swan, International Consultant on the Law of the Sea and Fisheries Law, and Initiator, World Oceans Day.

This year the strategic partner Oceanic Global organized a morning of storytelling by men and women and an afternoon panel discussion regarding solutions for gender issues with panellists from the Human Rights at Sea, UN Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea, the World Surf League and many others.

Kudzi Victorino Dykman at the start of UN WOD 2019 at the NY Headquarters.

Some highlights of the day were the testimony of Kudzi Victorino Dyckman. She was born in Mozambique as the oldest of 14 children and worked as a young child to help provide for her family. Her strong willpower and gratefulness eventually led to her becoming the first female Dive Instructor in Mozambique!

François Bailet from the Office of Legal Affairs – Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea – is the driving force behind the UN WOD. Here, in discussion with Amanda Elise Stoltz.

And what about the real life Moana: Aunofo Havea – a true seafarer following the stars and her dream, from cleaning to cooking to captain because she wanted to be the decision maker, while raising a family! Some people in the dive industry might know her as an inspirational power woman operating in Tonga – her dream since she first swam with the whales.

Storytelling panel: Ms. Angelique Pouponneau, Kudzi Victorino Dykman, Aunofo Havea, Anne de Carbuccio, Patima Tungpuchayaku, and moderator Mariasole Bianco.

We also heard goosebump testimonies from a former slave at sea and now the founder of Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation, Mr. Tun Lin.

In between the stories and panels, I had the honour to announce the winners of the 6th UN World Oceans Day Photo Competition. The overall winner, David Salvatori from Italy, presented a stunning shot of a diver between floating tunicates! A symbol that we need the motion in the ocean to keep them rich and full with life. Check back here tomorrow to see the images!

Expert panel with moderator Natasha Berg, Anamika Amani, Francesca Santoro, Lynn Zebeda, Kendall Barbery, Amanda Hastings, Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli and Paige Alms.

The day ended with a compelling speech by Dr. Sylvia Earle about the knowledge we have and the choices we make, or rather not make fast enough. We have to make peace with nature and that is not a gender issue but a cultural one. But women with superpowers all around the world can make a difference as we should provide the values at home so they become second nature.

We can do this partly by embracing the differences there are between men and women and using the differences in decision making like ones we all make at home: what shall we eat? We have to stop eating marine life because we’re all guilty in playing a part in the atrocities happening at sea if we don’t. In our food choices, we are implicated in everything from overfishing to forced labour at sea.

Dr. Sylvia Earle delivering the closing keynote speech and moving everyone to tears.

When a scientist with the experience and hours in the ocean like Dr. Earle tells you what to do… you better listen!

Conclusion: Gender and the Oceans seemed like a difficult theme when it got announced months ago, but the day was too short once the dialogue began! To be continued…

Find out more about Ellen and her work at www.ellencuylaerts.com.

Ellen Cuylaerts

Ellen Cuylaerts

As an underwater and wildlife photographer, Fellow of The Explorers Club and having a front seat in exploration being part of the Flag and Honours Committee, Ellen was also recently inducted in the Women Divers Hall of Fame. She travels the world and tries to make the most of every destination and the path that leads her there. Ellen acts as an ocean citizen and believes as divers we should all be ocean ambassadors and lead by example! She’s also a crazy cat lady and lives with her family in the Caribbean.

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