Eleven years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared April 22 as International Mother Earth Day and adopted the first resolution on Harmony with Nature. This momentous resolution emphasized the importance to balance economic, social, and environmental needs for the benefit of the present and future generations.

Today, this key message resounds more loudly globally as countries battle the continuing spread and unprecedented social and economic effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Wildlife as the suspected source of the virus highlights the intrinsic link between nature and human health. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), around 75% of new and infectious diseases are zoonotic or originating in animals, while the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that about 1 billion cases of illnesses and millions of deaths occur annually from these diseases.

Parts and products derived from wildlife are often traded as food, traditional medicine, souvenirs, pets, and other consumer goods. Illegal trade activity is not only contributing to widespread decline of wildlife populations, but is also impacting on natural ecosystems that present risks to people and habitats.

Categorized as a threatened species, the Spotted Seal is one of the flagship species included in the conservation efforts in the Yellow Sea, and illegal trade in their cubs remains an issue in just a few years ago.

While more tidal flats in the Yellow Sea are protected to provide the most important staging sites for the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, trapping in wintering sites in Southeast Asia is still a threat to the remaining 200-218 breeding pairs in the world.

The continuing in trade in particular illegal trade is seen to have long-term detrimental impacts to natural capital and livelihoods, and is also undermining the efforts of the range states to recover the declining populations of many threatened and endangered wildlife species. Equally important is the societal choice of sustainable production and consumption as far as wildlife is concerned.

Indeed, we are faced with a daunting challenge. But, with the current COVID-19 crisis lies an opportunity for us to emerge better by putting the health of our earth’s ecosystems as a priority and a guiding principle in safeguarding human health, as well as in building better communities and economies in harmony with nature.

The Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem (YSLME) Phase II Project supports the UN call for global solidarity to effectively address this pandemic through our efforts on sustaining the Yellow Sea as a key social, health, cultural, economic and environment support system.

The YSLME will continue to work with its country partners and various collaborators in promoting ecosystem-based developments, and the protection or conservation of marine life for healthy seas, healthy earth, and healthy societies.

For it is only by working with Mother Earth that we can achieve a truly sustainable future.

From the YSLME family, happy Earth Day and keep safe!