Ten-point plan to save the oceans

'Significant progress has been made in marine and coastal research.' Copyright: Flickr/Bryan Garnett-Law

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[MONTEVIDEO] The world has made lacklustre progress in meeting most of the commitments it made 20 years ago to safeguard the oceans, says a report.

At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, agreements were made on issues such as sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, capacity building, and biodiversity; later, the Johannesburg Summit in 2002 in South Africa set targets and timetables to achieve those goals.

But a report entitled ‘Oceans at Rio+20’ has rated both the effort and the achievements to date in protecting oceans and meeting these commitments as ‘low to medium’.

Meanwhile a separate, UN report says that at least 40 per cent of the global oceans are ‘heavily affected’ by human activities and that 60 per cent of the world’s major marine ecosystems have been degraded or are being used unsustainably. It makes ten proposals for improvement.

‘Oceans at Rio+20’ calls for a string of actions, including more scientific research and capacity building in small island states, to try to tackle the problems.

"It is clear that the international community has not lived up to many of its commitments and has failed to achieve major goals," said Joseph Appiott, policy researcher at the University of Delaware in the United States and one of the authors of the report, released ahead of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June, in Brazil.

"Countries must take stronger action to improve implementation of major commitments, as negative trends continue and major drivers, such as climate change, have raised the stakes," he told SciDev.Net.

"It is important that science conveys its message in a language that policymakers speak, namely social and economic value. We are beginning to develop the ability to do this."

Appiott said there was a need to improve capacity building and financial support for scientific monitoring of marine systems and resources, especially in developing countries, to improve our ability to predict and adapt to climate change, and promote new research on the emerging issues that threaten the marine environment.

"As the global economy faces strong challenges and times become more austere, identifying stable sources of financial support for science and technology, especially in developing countries, will become increasingly difficult."

The report will be presented at the ‘Sustainable Use of Oceans in the Context of the Green Economy and Poverty Eradication’ workshop in Monaco this month (28-30 November), which should feed into the negotiating document that will be produced next year prior to the Rio+20 meeting.    

It was produced by the University of Delaware, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Ocean Forum (composed of experts on oceans from over 100 countries) with the contribution of 30 international experts who participated at five global ocean conferences.

The second report, ‘Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability’ presented during the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference this month (1 November) in France, makes ten proposals under the categories of reducing stressors; supporting the ‘blue-green’ economy; reforming ocean governance; and supporting marine research, capacity building and technology transfer.

Julian Barbière, from the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), UNESCO, told SciDev.Net that, "significant progress has been made in marine science and research" since 1992.

"The ocean is no more seen as vast and resilient … The economic and social valuation of ocean degradation is more obvious today and more accurate data exist on coastal and ocean disrepair."

Link to full ‘Oceans at Rio+20’ report  [5.94MB]
Link to full UNESCO report