The oceans are essential to life on earth. For humans, they provide food, jobs, energy and communication highways. They help regulate our climate, control weather patterns and produce oxygen for us to breathe. However, today the oceans are under threat from the effects of climate change, over-fishing, pollution and loss of biodiversity. The Our Ocean conferences are designed to spur significant and meaningful actions to restore the regenerative powers of the oceans so that they can continue to provide for the needs of future generations.
Within the six Areas of Action below, the Our Ocean conference is seeking solutions through policy, governance, technology and finance. This year in Oslo, we will highlight the importance of knowledge as the basis of our actions and policies to ensure protection of our oceans, responsible management of marine resources and sustainable future economic growth. We want to trigger, amplify and accelerate action for clean and healthy oceans, where production and protection go hand in hand.
Our marine ecosystems must be protected from harmful human impacts. Integrated management of natural resources and the marine environment is crucial. SDG target 14.5 is to conserve at least 10 % of marine and coastal areas by 2020.
Area-based management tools, including marine protected areas (MPAs), are important for ensuring sustainable use of resources and protecting marine ecosystems. Area-based management means that different ecosystems are managed according to their particular needs. In some MPAs there are strict restrictions on human activity, while others can be used for production, depending on the need for protection and the cumulative effects of the activities in question.
The Our Ocean conference is seeking to secure commitments to implement well-connected systems of effective area-based management measures, including MPAs, and to support them with sufficient funding, as well as technical and scientific capacity.
Our atmosphere and our oceans are undergoing drastic changes as a result of rapidly increasing temperatures.
This is having consequences on a global scale. Many of these are becoming increasingly obvious: rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, ocean acidification, dead zones and invasive species. The impacts on coastal communities are dramatic.
Our oceans have absorbed 90 % of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere, as well as 30 % of the CO2 generated by humans. This has altered productivity and biodiversity patterns. This in turn is putting our supply of fish and seafood at risk, and threatening food security.
Rising sea levels have caused coastlines to recede hundreds of metres, and extreme weather is causing major disasters, endangering whole communities and traditional livelihoods. Small island states are particularly vulnerable, as are coastal lowlands where trade, wealth and most of the world’s population are concentrated.
The Our Ocean conference is seeking to secure commitments to adapt to climate change and rising sea levels by helping communities to work with nature, not against it.
One billion people, largely in developing countries, rely on seafood as their primary source of animal protein. In addition, millions of jobs around the world depend on fisheries, aquaculture and their global markets. Seafood is the most traded food commodity in the world, and an integral part of many people’s livelihoods.
However, global fisheries are a limited resource, and a growing world population is increasing demand. Pollution and habitat degradation are putting fish stocks under further stress. This is threatening sustainability, global food security, and whole marine ecosystems, and valuable commercial species are disappearing.
All this is having a dramatic effect on traditional fishing and fishery-dependent communities. At the same time, the scourge of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) is siphoning off around EUR 10 billion annually (around 15 % of the global catch).
In addition, transnational organized crime in the global fishing industry is undermining sustainable management of fish resources and is a threat against the development of a healthy blue economy. In addition to illegal fishing, these crimes include exploitation of human trafficking victims on vessels and fish processing factories, corruption, money laundering, tax and customs fraud and other crimes committed through the whole value chain.
The Our Ocean conference is seeking to secure commitments to stop overexploitation of fish stocks and combat IUU fishing and fisheries crime, helping to manage fisheries resources at sustainable levels with a long-term, ecosystem-based approach.
Virtually all the world’s ocean areas are affected by pollution. Pollution harms life in the sea, threatens human health and livelihoods, and reduces the availability of clean and healthy seafood.
Marine pollution is causing major ecological shifts, serious losses of biodiversity and reduced commercial yields. The amount of plastic litter in the oceans is rapidly increasing. Higher levels of nutrients and wastewater are leaking into the oceans because of climate change and coastal degradation. The result is large dead zones where there is no oxygen. Contaminants such as heavy metals, which accumulate through the food chain, or bacterial loads in coastal waters directly affect the health of millions of people. Larger items such as lost containers and fishing gear also cause a range of problems.
Still, there are large areas of the ocean with an abundance of marine life. Through global cooperation and local action, significant progress has been made in reducing the levels of some harmful substances. At the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2017, the world agreed on a long-term goal of eliminating all discharges of plastic into the oceans. However, if we are to achieve this goal, we need a global framework to coordinate and guide our common efforts. More action is also needed to reduce other pollutants, such as nutrients and wastewater.
The Our Ocean conference is seeking to secure commitments from governments, businesses and civil society to reduce discharges of plastic litter, nutrients and wastewater, and other pollutants and to develop initiatives to make recovery and recycling of waste more efficient.
The output of the world’s ocean economy is estimated at around EUR 1.3 trillion and is expected to more than double by 2030. At the same time, environmental problems are one of the main obstacles to realising the opportunities for growth in the ocean economy.
The blue economy could become an important driver of prosperity and job creation, not least in some developing and middle-income countries where this sector already represents an important share of the overall economy.
If we are to achieve the international community’s ambitions set out in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we need to increase our use of the oceans in a sustainable manner that contributes to food security and also reduces global warming and environmental degradation. Sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, offshore energy, blue biotechnology, green shipping, coastal tourism and marine mineral resources offer significant opportunities for fostering blue growth and promoting inclusive development.
New partnerships between governments, local communities, researchers and private investors are needed, as well as a whole new set of blue skills to drive innovation.
Businesses have an independent responsibility, alongside governments and civil society, to take action to safeguard the oceans.
The Our Ocean conference is seeking to secure commitments from industry, national and local authorities, research institutions and civil society to shift ocean-based economic activities toward sustainable practices, enabling us to harvest the full potential of the blue economy in a smart, sustainable and inclusive way.
Many human activities take place at sea. For example, 90 % of world trade is supported by maritime transport. That means that safety and security at sea are vital for prosperity and peace.
There are many threats to maritime security, such as pollution, natural disasters, irregular migration and illicit trafficking, piracy, smuggling and armed conflicts.
Maritime security challenges are often transnational, and cannot be met by any one country alone. It is only by working together that the international community can respond to these global challenges and improve the safety and security of our oceans. Global maritime security is closely related to international governance. Common rules and frameworks and joint enforcement of these rules are crucial. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea sets out the legal framework for all ocean-related activities and is thus a vital instrument for ensuring peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations between nations. We also need to invest in managing risks, building capacity and expanding our understanding of these issues through research and innovation.
The Our Ocean conference is seeking to secure commitments from industry, international organisations, national and local authorities, research institutions and civil society to address these important maritime security issues.