World - 5 pillars of a new ocean agenda
2020 was supposed to be a super year for the ocean.
A packed calendar of international events should have presented opportunities to assess progress towards Sustainable Development Goal No. 14 to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources; renew expiring Aichi Targets to protect coastal and marine habitats; conclude negotiations on a legally binding international agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the high seas; and reach agreement to prohibit fishing subsidies that drive overfishing and illegal practices. The coronavirus pandemic, however, brought a very different backdrop to 2020, delaying these important events at a time when improving ocean health never has been more paramount.
The ocean economy contributes upwards of $1.5 trillion in value to the global economy. It provides food to more than 3 billion people. And it supports hundreds of millions of jobs in tourism, fishing and transportation.
Yet the health of the ocean is off track. The ocean is under intense and growing pressure from pollution, overfishing, unsustainable development and climate change.
Millions of metric tonnes of plastic enters the ocean each year, entangling, harming and contaminating at least 700 species of marine life. Unsustainable development along coastlines is destroying coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves. The ocean is becoming warmer, more acidic and less oxygenated due to absorbing excess heat and 25 to 30 percent of annual CO2 emissions, which threatens biodiversity and fuels sea level rise.
COVID-19 has added yet another threat. Ocean industries face significant revenue losses due to lockdown measures and the global economic recession — international shipping carriers alone are projected to lose $1.9 billion. Hundreds of millions of jobs have been affected. The impacts fall disproportionately on developing and small island nations — many of whom already were struggling economically — and coastal communities, particularly those nations highly reliant on tourism.
At this unprecedented moment in time, one message never has been clearer: It is time to forge a new relationship with the ocean — one in which ocean protection and economic production and prosperity go hand-in-hand.
A positive signal for change: The new ocean action agenda
To that end, 14 world leaders of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) are laying out a new ocean action agenda with the release of "Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy: A Vision for Protection, Production and Prosperity."
Leaders from 14 countries (Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal) have committed to sustainably manage 100 percent of ocean areas within their national waters by 2025, and to support global ocean protection targets. With this significant commitment, domestic waters covering an area of nearly 18.6 million square miles (equivalent to the national waters of all of North, South and Central America and the Caribbean combined) no longer will be open for business as usual. This unprecedented global collaboration is a key step on the road to effectively managing and governing the whole ocean.