With the fate of the Earth’s marine environment hanging in the balance and human-induced challenges accelerating, ocean champions from around the globe – including His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco and the former Heads of State, Ministers and business leaders of the Global Ocean Commission – have joined forces in a clarion call for comprehensive and integrated ocean governance.
The urgent appeal was issued during the first-ever United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, as Prince Albert, an award-winning environmental activist, addressed the myriad challenges facing the oceans – including pollution, overfishing and, increasingly, climate change.
An estimated 350 million jobs around the world are linked to the oceans, and as much as 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of the shoreline. Nevertheless, human impacts have destroyed an estimated 20 per cent of mangroves and 30 per cent of seagrass beds, and threaten 60 per cent of the world’s coral reefs – a major source of income for some 850 million people.
Land-based human activities have also resulted in more than 500 oxygen-poor ‘dead zones’, which cover an estimated 245,000 square kilometers of coastal zones. Greenhouse gas emissions are raising sea-levels and threatening the very existence of some island states.
“The Earth’s marine environment provides humanity with a number of important services, ranging from the air we breathe, to food security and storm protection. These in turn underpin lives and livelihoods around the globe,” said Prince Albert.
“However, with a population set to rise from seven billion today to nine billion by 2050, threats to the ocean – including pollution from land-based sources, over-fishing and unmanaged coastal development – are likely to intensify. The International community must build on the Future We Want, adopted in Rio in 2012 and seize the opportunity of a Blue Economy. There cannot be social economic development without resilient and productive oceans,” he added.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), stressed that stricter adherence by states to the existing regime of regional oceans governance – led for the last 40 years by the UNEP Regional Seas Programme – was critical to reversing the rapidly accelerating degradation of the oceans.
The Regional Seas Programme, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, is the world’s only legal framework to address marine issues at the regional level. Its network of 18 regional Conventions and Action Plans aim to engage neighbouring countries in comprehensive and specific actions to protect their shared marine environment.