We can save our ocean in three steps – if we act now

Fish UN News

FAO Healthy oceans have a central role to play in solving one of the biggest problems of the 21st century – how to feed 9 billion people by 2050.

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author:  Kristian Teleki, Head of the Friends of Ocean Action, Director – Sustainable Ocean Initiative, World Resources Institute
 

This article is adapted from a keynote speech to G7 Ocean and Environment Ministers in Halifax, Canada, on 20 September 2018.


Fighting for the ocean is one of the greatest and defining challenges of our age.

Our relationship with the ocean is at a crossroads. Humanity has a clear choice: business as usual, with continuing ocean decline that will harm every area of human development and wellbeing; or deep-seated change in our behaviour, priorities and investments in order to balance ocean protection with our socio-economic goals.

It really is a case of sink or swim.

There are three main reasons why we are at a turning point – and there are three highly-achievable steps that can set us on a course for securing a healthy, productive ocean that supports wealthy, sustainable economies.

The time is right for change, first of all, because human exploitation of the ocean is causing immense, and in some cases irreversible, damage. A third of fish stocks are unsustainably harvested, we are choking our seas with plastic and agricultural run-off, and our carbon emissions are causing unprecedented warming and acidification. The situation is critical.

 The oceans provide us with so much more than food

The oceans provide us with so much more than food
Image: National Ocean Service, US Department of Commerce

Secondly, thanks to incredible progress in science and technology, we now know what damage we are doing, and, increasingly, understand the extent to which we rely on the ocean – not only for food, transport and recreation, but as the world’s greatest carbon sink, sheltering us from the impacts of climate change by absorbing 30% of our carbon and 90% of the heat we produce.

Ignorance, or the claim of more pressing priorities, have ceased to be an excuse.

Thirdly, there has been an explosion of interest in the ocean, by governments, by business and among the general public. Just five years ago, when the recommendations of the Global Ocean Commission were launched, one of its goals was to have a Sustainable Development Goal for the ocean. Now it seems impossible this was ever in question. We have a UN Envoy for the Ocean, UN Ocean conferences, and top billing at major gatherings like the G7.

We also have the Friends of Ocean Action brought together by the World Economic Forum, the Special Envoy for the Ocean and the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden to fast track solutions in support of SDG14; and then the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which brings together 12 heads of government who are committed to developing, catalysing and supporting solutions for Oocean health and wealth in policy, governance, technology and finance.

And it is the G7 and these other bodies that can make the difference – who can help turn this trifecta of opportunity into a new age of ocean action.

The ocean is open for business as never before – but we need leaders and governments to take bold decisions that lead to ocean health and wealth.

We must seize the chance to build a sustainable blue economy and develop innovative blue solutions to the world’s great challenges: climate change, food security, renewable energy and regional security.

So, how do we get there?

There are three immediate and achievable steps that will set us on the right course. First, advancing and applying marine science and sharing it with less-developed states; second, putting an end to illegal fishing; and third, extending protection to vulnerable, pivotal ocean areas.

The ocean is a highly complex ecosystem, built on countless interactions and dependencies. It is imperative that interventions to restore and maximize the value of the ocean be based on the best available science – and that it is made available to decision-makers everywhere.

Luckily, we are living in an era of discovery in marine science. New technologies and methods are allowing scientists to explore previously unreachable places. New studies are revealing more about the links between the ocean and our climate, and about how dependent we are on ocean resources and services for our very survival.

But, studying the ocean is an expensive and exclusive business, and much of it – especially the more remote and deeper zones – remains under-investigated. Only about 5% of the ocean has been thoroughly studied, and there are still vast unknowns and uncertainties about emerging challenges like acidification, melting polar ice and the impact of microplastics.

There are also fundamental gaps in our socio-economic knowledge that can hinder effective decision-making. In particular, there is a chronic lack of information about the role of women in the fisheries sector, where their work is often unrecognized, marginalized and invisible – even though an estimated 50% of fisheries workers around the world are women. We need to gather gender-disaggregated data to support policy-making that protects this vital work force.

The G7 can work together to put some serious wind in the sails of this age of ocean discovery. This is the next great frontier in human enlightenment, and one that must be pursued in the spirit of collaboration: we must coordinate, not duplicate.

Let’s increase commitments to marine research, lead multi-national initiatives, and create centres for ocean science and innovation attracting the best experts from around the world.

The G7 can make a global difference by incentivizing, expanding and enhancing the availability of marine science and data for practical decision-making and sharing its benefits. Public and private investments in research that helps solve ocean challenges will generate returns well into the future – but it does require investment now.

The fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing – the second area where the G7 can play a decisive role – is a prime example of where a combination of science, technology and international cooperation hold the key to success.

It is well known that illegal fishing is a global threat to food security and small-scale fisheries, and that it robs 26 million tonnes of fish from our seas and $23.5 billion from our economies.

Most illegal operators care as little for the marine environment as they do for the people who work for them. Reports of human rights abuses and links to organized crime are rife. We must mobilise the combined force of the world’s governments and multilateral institutions to quash this scourge.

We have the tools to make illegal fishing history. In 2016, the FAO Port State Measures Agreement entered into force as a binding international treaty aimed at denying illegal fishers access to ports and markets. Advances in science and technology allow real-time tracking and monitoring of vessels. More and more seafood retailers are on board. Now we need the combined political will to get the job done – and the world’s wealthiest and most influential states can lead the way.

The Port State Measures Agreement needs to be scrupulously implemented and ratified by all states. We should also lead by example by enforcing strong national seafood traceability standards, and create partnerships with developing countries to accelerate the transfer of vessel monitoring technologies to regions where the IUU fishing risk is highest.

This is a cross-border problem that needs open source solutions.

IUU fishing has no place in our ocean, in our ports or on our plates.

Third, and perhaps most urgently, we need to protect the most vulnerable and precious areas of our ocean, to allow biodiversity to replenish and build resilience.

For decades, scientists have been calling for marine protected areas to cover at least 20% of the ocean. The world met them halfway with the Aichi Biodiversity Target to achieve 10% protection by 2020. But, just two years from the deadline, still only 7% of the ocean is protected.

There is still time to meet the Aichi target by 2020 and to give an unequivocal sign that the world is serious about protecting our oceans.

The G7 states command vast areas of the ocean in their Exclusive Economic Zones and have huge influence in regional bodies, including in the Antarctic and Arctic.

Beyond nations’ territorial waters, the high seas languish in a totally unprotected, lawless state, exposing our greatest natural heritage to unchecked exploitation. But, here too, we have an immense opportunity for change.

States have just begun formal negotiations of a new High Seas Treaty, which is intended to include agreements on how to protect and share the bounty of the sea bed and create mechanisms for establishing marine protected areas on the high seas.

Creatures and substances found in the deep sea are being investigated for treating cancer, cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer’s Disease, and could even provide a solution to the global crisis of antibiotic resistance.

The new treaty is essential if we are to explore these still mysterious resources and ensure the benefits are equitably shared among the global community.

The G7 nations should champion a strong High Seas Treaty, and proactively push for it to be agreed by its 2020 deadline. A chance to protect half the planet is not to be squandered.

The next two years promise to be a turning point for ocean recovery – if we raise our ambitions and make the right choices. With these three steps forward – scientific advancement and solidarity, eliminating IUU fishing and expanding ocean protection – the G7 can use its combined power as a force for positive change on a planetary scale that will be felt at a very human level.

Many of us working in the ocean world can already feel the winds filling the sails of change, and eagerly await mobilization of more concrete actions, policies and partnerships for a healthy, and wealthy ocean.

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

For Youth Rights: steps forward for better protection.

Harmonised Unemployment Rates (HURs), OECD – Updated: February 2020

Air pollution: How to end the deaths of 7 million people per year

Service and Sacrifice: Ugandan ‘Blue Helmets’ support UN efforts to bring peace to Somalia

Around 260,000 children in DR Congo’s Kasai region suffering severe acute malnutrition

Ukraine: Temperatures plunge amid rising humanitarian needs

A quarter of Pacific islanders live below ‘basic needs poverty lines’, top UN development forum hears

Brexit: the Withdrawal Agreement passes the first European Parliament test

Will the French let Macron destroy their party political system?

China’s cities are rapidly becoming more competitive. Here’s why

‘Rare but devastating’ tsunamis underscore need for better preparation, UN chief urges on World Day

Schools must look to the future when connecting students to the internet

How’s Life? reveals improvements in well-being but persistent inequalities

Here are six bold ideas to accelerate sustainable energy innovation

EuroLat: serious concern about migration and support to multilateral trade

Will Merkel ever steer the EU migration Titanic and restore her power in Germany?

EU report: Implementation of reforms continues to bring EU and Ukraine closer together

EU–Canada Summit: strengthening the rules-based international order

Rising insecurity in Central Africa Republic threatens wider region, Security Council told

INTERVIEW: ‘Defend the people, not the States’, says outgoing UN human rights chief

Donor countries need to reform development finance to meet 2030 pledge

South Sudan: €48.5 million in additional EU humanitarian aid

Sudan: top UN official demands cessation of violence and rape against civilians by security forces

State aid: Commission approves close to €94 million support for waste-to-energy high-efficient cogeneration plant in Bulgaria

6 ways China and the United States could jumpstart trade reforms

Central Asia: the European Union matches political commitment with further concrete support

Here are 3 lessons Europe can learn from China’s flourishing start-ups

‘We must fight terrorism together’ without sacrificing legal and human rights, declares UN chief

How can newspapers survive? By measuring their social impact

Health spending set to outpace GDP growth to 2030

A new leadership agenda for private equity

‘Hateful attacks’ pushing Sri Lanka backwards, UN advisers warn, urging an end to ‘discriminatory practices’ that feed intolerance

‘Jerusalem is not for sale’ Palestinian President Abbas tells world leaders at UN Assembly

The success story of a Chinese investment in the Greek port of Piraeus

Conflict, climate change among factors that increase ‘desperation that enables human trafficking to flourish’, says UN chief

Don’t understand the US-China trade war? This metaphor could help

Food finally features in the climate debate. Now what?

Blockchain will make sure green pledges aren’t just greenwash: a new initiative by young leaders at the World Economic Forum

How regenerative agroforestry could solve the climate crisis

The succesful cooperation

State aid: Commission approves around €36 million Romanian rescue aid to state-owned flag carrier TAROM

Access to health in the developping world

UN rights chief welcomes new text to protect rights of peasants and other rural workers

The US calls off globalization, targets Germany. Paris offer to Berlin comes at a cost

What makes a great CEO? The people they surround themselves with

Tougher defence tools against unfair imports to protect EU jobs and industry

Why income inequality is bad for the climate

UN Mission in Haiti calls on protestors, authorities, to refrain from violence

How oysters are cleaning New York’s polluted harbor

How emerging markets will shape Africa in 2020

Finnish Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

Crisis hit countries cut down public spending on education

THE COMMITTEES: From the colonies to the space race – past, present, future converge in Fourth Committee

UN forum to bring ‘big space data’ benefits to disaster response in Africa

EU-US relations on the dawn of the Trump era

Foreign Investment Screening: new European framework to enter into force in April 2019

New Eurobarometer survey shows: The majority of Europeans think the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality problems

Engaging world’s youth vital to preventing violent extremism, building sustainable peace, UN official tells Baku Forum

If the Current Situation in Hong Kong Arose in the West

How green investment will help Latin America and the world fight climate change

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s