Voice of the Ocean: 5 Takeaways from IMPAC5

Earlier this month I attended The Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress, (IMPAC5) and it was certainly a time of learning, growth, and exploring ocean innovation. 

With a delegation of 8 UBC student-leaders that I brought to the congress, sponsored by the Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition (COLC), IMPAC 5 was a tremendous success for our academic, career, and activism journeys. The UBC delegation led and facilitated 3 side events, an impactful demonstration against deep-sea mining, and held a powerful collaboration space where all young people felt comfortable sharing ocean solutions and new intersectional environmental projects. 


This was a truly global congress! We had the opportunity to learn from Marine Protected Areas (MPA) experts, Indigenous leaders, scientists, and Ph.D.’s all the way from the Galapagos, Palau, the Arctic, and across our blue planet. From technical workshops on Ocean Law and Governance, Polynesian Voyaging, and Fisheries Monitoring Strategies, to Climate Finance sessions for Collaborative Marine Management Plans, Meaningful Intergenerational Engagement, and Community-led Ocean Regeneration Initiatives, the congress was buzzing with a biodiverse range of thinkers, sessions, and ideas!

In connecting deeply with elders, water guardians, voyagers, and ocean heroes, here are my top 5 takeaways:

1. Ocean Literacy is built through cultivating our relationship with the ocean. The Canadian Ocean Literacy Coalition (COLC) hosted the Ocean Literacy Dialogues 3rd Edition at IMPAC5, in collaboration with the Marine Social Sciences Network and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO). I was invited to serve as a panelist in a session about the interconnection between Ocean Literacy (our shared relationship with the ocean) and Climate Change. I also shared my journey as an ocean-climate solutionist with elementary schools around the world, through the COLC-led LIVE from IMPAC5: Ocean Conservation 4 Schools side-event in partnership with Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants and the All-Atlantic Blue Schools Network. Here is the recording of these incredible students, listening to my story, learning about various ocean solutions like community-building for ocean action, and asking inquisitive questions with their unbridled curiosity. We borrow the planet from future generations. It’s our responsibility to protect and ensure a healthy ocean, local waterways, and the water within us all.

2. Activism Works. As a representative of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA) North America Delegation, Ocean Uprise, and One World Breath, I was able to stand alongside 150 young people, elders, and Indigenous leaders to help push Canada to say NO to deep sea mining. As a result of our well-executed protest in downtown Vancouver and the #LookDown Social Media Action Campaign, along with the efforts of many organizations like the Oxygen Project, Oceans North, and Greenpeace in rallying a global community to #DefendTheDeep, together we drove a wave of positive change. Canada declared a moratorium on deep-sea mining in Canadian waters and The Metals Company (TMC) saw a significant decline in their stock value within days. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough to protect the deep sea. We need Canadian leadership during the International Seabed Authority Commissions in mid-March to push for a total BAN on deep-sea mining. Join us and many Indigenous voices in calling for a ban on deep sea mining here. Sign on today to #DefendTheDeep and protect our shared heritage site; the ocean, our oldest ancestor that gives all of us life. 

3. Youth and Indigenous Peoples are powerful change-makers. Throughout IMPAC5, the Young Professionals Committee alongside the many young leaders at the congress encouraged global governments, ENGOs, ocean storytellers, and rising businesses, to take 3 key actions to support meaningful youth engagement (a reoccurring verbal priority at international fora): (1) Fully fund youth in attending summits and breaking down barriers to entry and participation; (2) Centralize ocean equity, water justice, youth and Indigenous peoples in conference planning and events; and (3) Compensate youth with funding and intergenerational tools and mentorship for our impactful solution-building and global advocacy work. Please find the full youth statement that goes into depth about access and equity here. We ask that you support young people in ocean conservation by recognizing, compensating, and continuously supporting our hard work!

4. The ocean is our greatest common ancestor. Despite all of the new learnings, expanded networks, and improved sense of ocean literacy, one piece of wisdom remains strongly in my heart and soul. The true spirit of ocean protection is based on traditional ways of guardianship and a shared relationship with our oldest ancestor – the waters that connect us all. Uncle Sol Kaho‘ohalahala from Lāna‘i shared the ancient Hawaiian text that describes the coral polyp as our eldest ancestor and the source of all life. “The first creature in our genealogy is the coral polyp that comes from the deep sea. All things are created after that. From the deep seas to the near shores, land, mountain, and skies. The people don’t come until much later. Our kuleana (responsibility) is to care for all things.” Uncle Sol went on to share a song and reflection from an excerpt of the Kumulipo, a Hawaiian creation chant created to honour the last sovereign queen. 

5. We must recognize Indigenous sovereignty and the diversity of expressing self-determination. IMPAC5 was jointly hosted by the Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish Nation, and Tsleil-Waututh Nation – together with the Government of Canada, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The congress set a new precedent for Intergenerational Collaboration between scientists, Indigenous leaders, government, and civil society, with panels that showcased a diverse range of water guardians. This collaboration was led by Indigenous leaders like Auntie Hinano Murphy (Mo’orea/Tahiti), Uncle Sol (Hawai’i), Uncle Kura (Aotearoa – New Zealand), and many others who represented the great Pacific octopus that connects the entire Polynesian triangle with its outstretched tentacles (a story for another time).

The voice of the ocean is channeled through the many young, Indigenous, and frontline community leaders that travelled the high seas to be seen and heard at IMPAC5. We made a huge wave of ocean impact and brought compassion, respect, and reciprocity to the main stage of the congress. We are one with the ocean and share the same voice. Together, our love, connection, and power form the voice of the ocean. We are a new wind that blows the conch for a blue revolution!



About the Author, Bodhi Patil:

Bodhi Patil is a young ocean climate solutionist passionate about the interconnection between Ocean Health and Human Health (OHHH). As the founder of Inner Light, co-creator of @oceanuprise, co-founder of Sea Dragon Studios – One World Breath, co-winner of the UN Oceans Conference Youth & Innovation Forum, and United Nations esteemed young leader, Bodhi supports young people to create ocean impact at scale. He is the Head of Impact at OnDeck Fisheries AI, and a Youth Advisor at Symbrosia Seaweed, World Ocean Day and Break Free from Plastic Pollution and many other impactful organizations. He is a second-year student in the BA + Masters of Management program at the University of British Columbia studying the ocean, climate action, and business. Join him here

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