Mediterranean: Region’s vulnerability to warming

 Maltese marine biologist Alan Deidun stressed the need for international cooperation to tackle the pressing challenges faced by the world’s oceans.

“Many of the challenges we face extend beyond the confines of a single country and cannot be addressed by a single country but through multi-lateral environmental agreements and cross-border cooperation,” Deidun, professor at the University of Malta, said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Deidun, who is also director of the International Ocean Institute (IOI) Malta Training Center, highlighted the interconnectedness of marine issues and called for collaborative efforts and cross-border cooperation to tackle transboundary problems, such as oil spills, plastic pollution, invasive alien species, sea warming, eutrophication and ocean acidification.

“The marine domain is characterized by a high degree of connectivity, and it is crucial to understand that there is just ‘One Ocean’,” he said.

Headquartered in Malta, the IOI has also established a training center in north China’s Tianjin Municipality. China has hosted a lot of IOI meetings and sponsored Chinese students’ participation in IOI courses on ocean governance in Malta.

“On ocean governance, we have a very tight relationship with China through the IOI,” Deidun said.

He said he appreciated China’s active role in ocean governance and commended China’s efforts in marine spatial planning, which he described as a vital tool for balancing the economy and the environment. China has published marine spatial plans for its coastal cities demonstrating its commitment to sustainable development, which is “very important,” he said.

Deidun acknowledged China’s active engagement in multilateral environmental agreements and meetings, including the Conference of the Parties (COP). He emphasized China’s role as a mediator in addressing significant challenges like climate change, stating that “China’s participation is essential to reach a common stance and agreement on such important issues.”

According to Deidun, the European Union and China have developed close ties in sharing satellite data and monitoring the state of water quality in the oceans through satellites.

Highlighting China’s global significance, Deidun emphasized the crucial role the country plays in protecting the marine environment. With its long coastline, large population and position as a major trade partner, Deidun said, “No agreement obviously can be robust without having China on board.”

Talking about the Mediterranean Sea, Deidun highlighted the region’s vulnerability to warming, urbanization, invasion of alien species and oil pollution due to heavy shipping traffic.

Deidun also drew attention to the high degree of coastal urbanization in the Mediterranean Sea, with over half of its 46,000-kilometer coastline already under concrete, resulting in the loss of numerous coastal habitats.

“We forget about what there is in the ocean, but it is very important to create awareness if we expect people to respect the ocean and take action,” Deidun said, underscoring the immense diversity in the oceans and the importance of raising awareness about marine biodiversity and habitats. ■

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