A Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability (IOC/UNESCO, FAO, IMO, UNDP)
  • Date submitted: 31 Oct 2011
  • Stakeholder type: United Nations & Other IGOs
  • Name: A Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability (IOC/UNESCO, FAO, IMO, UNDP)
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Agriculture (1 hits),

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This document is a SUMMARY of ?A Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability?, an interagency paper that provides context for the Rio+20 discussions, through analysis of current challenges in ocean and coastal management around the world.

Our ocean covers over 70% of the globe. Its health and the wellbeing of humanity and the living environment that sustains us all are inextricably linked. Yet neglect, ocean acidification, climate change, polluting activities and over exploitation of marine resources have made it one of the earth?s most threatened ecosystems. This has put in peril not only the life forms that inhabit the planet, but the aspirations of humankind for prosperity and economic growth within the context of sustainable development.

The good news is that considerable, albeit incomplete, progress has been made in reaching some of the goals set in Rio twenty years ago, and in the decisions made via a number of modalities, including the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) and by the Commission on Sustainable Development, to name but two. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are among the agencies responsible for substantive progress made to date. Almost two thirds of the Global Ocean Observing System is now in place. The Large Marine Ecosystem Program has been actively engaged in meeting marine-related targets to promote ecosystem-based integrated ocean and coastal management. A mechanism for the global reporting and assessment of the oceans has been set in motion. Major agreements have been reached to protect threatened fish stocks and new Regional Fisheries Management Organizations have been set up. Substantial investment has been made in capacity building for Small Island Developing States. Guidelines on the ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture have been developed and are being incrementally implemented in several areas. The IMO now has in place no less than 21 international treaties dealing with the protection of the environment from international shipping activity, including the first ever, global and mandatory greenhouse gas reduction regime for an entire economic sector.

The bad news is that despite international efforts and initiatives, to date only a little over 1% of the ocean is protected. The implementation of many international agreements in place has been slow.

The commitment to maintain or restore depleted fish stocks to levels that can produce their maximum sustainable yield has not been met - notwithstanding progress with some stocks. Deterrence of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing remains marginal at best. Marine pollution from land-based sources continues to be a serious problem. One of the primary vectors for the introduction of aquatic invasive species ? hull fouling ? has yet to be resolved. Commitments made regarding biodiversity and Marine Protected Areas have fallen short of expectations.

In addition, a number of emerging issues since the JPOI threaten progress toward sustainable development of ocean and coastal areas. They include increased nutrient over-enrichment contributing to habitat degradation, lack of ocean-based renewable energy use, continuing threats to coral reefs, the existence of vast areas of marine debris particularly in the form of plastics, and a lack of systematic data exchange across nations. Technological advances and the impact of climate change, as well as increased intensification of human development have all reduced ocean productivity. This has led to significantly increased risks to food security from fisheries, particularly in the warmer latitudes around the globe.

In short the world is not keeping up with its commitments ? with the result that a large percentage of global fish stocks are under pressure. Aquatic invasive species are expanding. Hypoxic (dead) zones are increasing. Coral reefs are disappearing. Coastal habitats have been lost or are being degraded and there is an overall loss of marine biodiversity.

However, the recovery power of the ocean is still in place and it is not too late to act. There are emerging opportunities for the global community to protect our ocean and at the same time enhance its potential contribution to sustainable development.

Those opportunities include increased recognition of the concept of a Blue-Green Economy and its relationship to the environmental, social, and economic pillars of sustainability. Renewable blue energy, marine genetic bio-resources, and ecosystem services, are but a few of the options to consider in meeting the twin goals of marine conservation and economic stability of of all nations, not just those with coasts.

It is clear that the ocean choices made by world governments and the agencies they support will be critical to the welfare of future generations, in supporting poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental improvement. Ocean governance gaps, institutional failures and problems in the implementation of global and regional conservation measures, as well as the need to harness the expertise of scientific institutions are likely to feature prominently on the Rio+20 agenda.

There is therefore a strong case for the UN system to provide leadership through the fostering of enhanced dialogue, coordination and cooperative action among UN agencies, funds and programmes, possibly leading to a proposal on a reformed mechanism for ocean coordination to be put forward at Rio.

Implementation, political and institutional willingness, capacity and desire to change at all levels of both government, industry and civil society are now needed. The changes that will be required to transition to a Blue-Green Economy will be a mix of physical, behavioural and institutional factors. The matrix, objectives, and proposals below summarise the nature of the required changes. Each of the proposals presented in detail in the sections that follow are compared against the objectives in the matrix. The purpose in this approach is to show how broadly relevant each proposal is across the spectrum, which in turn serves to re-emphasise the interconnected nature of the future transition.
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