The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life – drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea.

Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation.

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Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future. However, at the current time, there is a continuous deterioration of coastal waters owing to pollution and ocean acidification is having an adversarial effect on the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity. This is also negatively impacting small scale fisheries.

Marine protected areas need to be effectively managed and well-resourced and regulations need to be put in place to reduce overfishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification.

  • Increasing pollution of the world’s oceans is having a major environmental and economic impact. Organisms are ingesting or being entangled by marine debris, which can kill them or make it impossible for them to reproduce. About 20% of coral reefs have been irreversibly destroyed, 24% are under imminent risk of collapse, and 26% are under longer-term threat of collapse.
  • Oceans absorb up to 30% of the annual CO2 emissions generated by human activity, helping mitigate the rise in greenhouse gases. The absorbed CO2 alters the carbonate chemistry of the waters, leading to an increase in the acidity of seawater (reduced pH) and a decrease of the aragonite saturation state. Theses conditions lead to significant weakening of the shells and skeletons of many marine species (such as reef-building corals and shelled molluscs, which use aragonite to build their shells).
  • Improper sewage treatment and agricultural practices lead to eutrophication, which is excessive nutrients in water that cause dense plant growth and the death of animal life from lack of oxygen.
  • Improper marine management results in overfishing, which leads to an economic loss in the fisheries sector of about $50 billion annually. The UN Environment Programme estimates the cumulative economic impact of poor ocean management practices is at least $200 billion per year. And if left unchecked, climate change will increase the cost of damage to the ocean by an additional $322 billion per year by 2050.

The costs of taking action are largely offset by the long-term gains. The Convention on Biological Diversity suggests that scaled up actions to sustain the global ocean require a $32 billion one-time public cost and $21 billion dollars a year for recurring costs.

  • As a consumer, you can make ocean-friendly choices when buying products or eating food derived from oceans and consume only what you need. You can also take public transport and unplug electronics to save energy, which in turn reduces our carbon footprint and the rising sea levels. You can also avoid using plastic whenever possible and organize beach cleanups.
  • As an active member of the community, you can encourage your government leaders to establish comprehensive, effective, and equitably managed systems of government-protected areas that conserve biodiversity and ensure a sustainable future for the fishing industry.
  1. By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
  2. By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
  3. Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
  4. By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
  5. By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
  6. By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation
  7. By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
  8. Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
  9. Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
  10. Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want
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