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Alessandra Gentile and Matt Nettle are both Ocean Bridge alumni who had the opportunity to represent United Nations Association of Canada (UNA-Canada) as virtual youth delegates at IMPAC5, the Fifth International Marine Protected Areas Conference. Alessandra, who is based in Ktaqmkuk (Newfoundland), is passionate about empowering people to live holistic lifestyles connected to the ocean. Matt, who is based in Kjipuktuk (Halifax), is currently a student in a two-year Natural Resource Environmental Technology diploma program and is passionate about ecosystem restoration and climate change adaptation. They attended IMPAC5 to learn about marine protected areas and how they could apply what they learned to their Ocean Wise community service projects. 

IMPAC5 was held in Vancouver on the traditional lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples from February 3-9, 2023. The conference brought together thousands of ocean conservation professionals and high-level officials to inform, inspire and act on marine protected areas. The overall goal of this conference was to chart a course towards protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. Indigenous peoples and cultures from around the world were invited to embrace a collaborative approach and learn from Indigenous leadership in ocean conservation. 

As UNA-Canada youth delegates, Alessandra and Matt received pre-conference training, participated virtually in all conference activities, had daily check-ins with support, and participated in post-conference community engagement. The conference featured daily keynote speakers, and breakout sessions that were designed around a diverse set of topics and speakers.  

Despite the challenges of virtual conference life, the delegates found the experience engaging, informative, and inspiring. Virtual conference life included disciplined self-paced learning while sitting at laptops sipping drinks of choice to stay hydrated (Alessandra preferred hydrating with oat lattes while Matt cracked open his favourite craft beer). Aside from the challenges faced with long hours of sitting in front of the computer, Matt and Alessandra told us it was sometimes a struggle to decide between presentations that were happening at the same time!  

Alessandra and Matt were among several other Ocean Bridge alumni who were virtual youth delegates, including Alyssa Czene, Joanna Tucci, Mhairi Chander, and Annika Meijer. As UNA-Canada ambassadors, they had virtual daily check-ins with the other delegates, which was their favourite part of the day. They appreciated the opportunity to network, share their experiences, and lead in their communities.  

Matt and Alessandra leave us with their learnings below:  

We felt the intention that IMPAC5 put in to create a diverse set of topics and speakers. We learned that a living whale represents $2,000,000 in decarbonizing the atmosphere. Panama is very inspirational, as they have achieved 50% marine protection which is more than their land mass! If small countries can achieve this, Canada has every opportunity to achieve 30% protection by 2030. We learned that only 50% of seagrass meadows have been mapped in North America, so there is much work to be done to protect these vital resources while they are still intact.  

One speaker mentioned how equity in ocean conservation means more voices and less excuses. We believe that as well and want to thank the Ocean Wise blog for giving us a platform to share our voice. 

Thank you, UNA-Canada for this opportunity! We hope to attend IMPAC6 in person!” 

Posted May 1, 2023 by Ocean Wise

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