Joining forces to save the seas

Posted: 26 February 2012

A powerful coalition of governments, international organizations, civil society groups and private interests are joining together under the banner of a Global Partnership for Oceans to confront widely documented problems of over-fishing, marine degradation, and habitat loss.

In a keynote speech delivered on 24 February at The Economist’s World Oceans Summit in Singapore, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick said the Global Partnership for Oceans would bring science, advocacy, the private sector, and international public institutions together to advance mutually agreed goals for healthy and productive oceans.

Reef fish
Many scientists and economists want to better understand how the ocean contributes to local and global well-being, and to properly value it. Photo credit: Global Partnership for Oceans

Underscoring the importance of oceans to the world’s developing economies, Zoellick said: “The world’s oceans are in danger, and the enormity of the challenge is bigger than one country or organization. We need coordinated global action to restore our oceans to health. Together we’ll build on the excellent work already being done to address the threats to oceans, identify workable solutions, and scale them up.”

Numerous ocean-focused NGOs have expressed support for the new alliance. “As the world’s population grows to 9 billion people by 2050, the demand for food and other resources will double,” said Conservation International Chief Executive Officer Peter Seligmann. “It is in the enlightened self interest of all nations and all communities to wisely steward our oceans. Humanity needs the oceans to thrive. Collaboration is essential.

"The bottom line is our lives depend on oceans, but we need to better understand them. We need to adequately value oceans and the benefits they provide, and act on this knowledge. If we don't do this, we and future generations of people will be hurt," he added. "I commend Robert Zoellick and the World Bank on taking a critical step to catalyse the funding required by governments, businesses and civil society to secure ocean health for us and our children."

Conservation International has already demonstrated a successful ocean conservation model in the field with its Seascape approach, which aims to establish responsible governance and recovering ocean health at a large scale (hundreds of thousands or millions of square kilometres) through collaboration among governments of bordering nations, stakeholder groups and partner organizations.

Local fishermen
Local fishermen in smaller canoes, such as the one pictured above, often compete with bigger shipping vessels from other countries, and end up catching less and earning less. Photo credit: Global Partnership for Oceans

"This partnership is timely because oceans are under threat and have not been properly managed. Demand for seafood and other benefits from the oceans are growing while marine ecosystems are declining in health," said Sebastian Troeng, Vice President of Marine Conservation at Conservation International.

"When the governance situation changes and countries establish marine protected areas, on average there is a 21 percent increase in the diversity, and a 28 percent increase in the size of the organisms inside the reserves relative to unprotected areas nearby," added Troeng. "Those same reserves have seen the tons of fish per square kilometre increase 446 percent on average. And research has shown that communities using marine protected areas have greater incomes, more diversified livelihoods and greater environmental awareness than nearby communities that do not have marine protected areas."

Heading into the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June, ocean health is a key issue. The Global Partnership for Oceans will assist with implementation by supporting countries meeting commitments for improved ocean management.