UN agencies are launching a plan to improve the management of ocean and coastal areas

The Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability sounds the alarm about the health of the ocean, and explains how it influences our everyday life by regulating the climate, providing highly-nutritious food and by sustaining livelihoods and economies. It recalls that although the ocean accounts for 70 per cent of the surface of our planet, only one per cent of it is protected.

Presented at UNESCO Headquarters during the 36th session of the General Conference, the Blueprint was prepared for consideration by the UN conference on sustainable development (Rio+20, June 2012).
It proposes a series of 10 concrete measures, one of them being to: “Promote research on ocean acidification -how to adapt to it and mitigate it”

The Blueprint was prepared by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

It emphasises that 60 per cent of the world’s major marine ecosystems have been degraded or are being used unsustainably, resulting in huge economic and social losses. Mangrove forests have lost 30 to 50 per cent of their original cover in the last 50 years while coral reefs have lost 20 per cent, increasing the vulnerability of many highly populated coastal areas. The ocean absorbs close to 26 per cent of atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions which is provoking acidification that is already threatening some varieties of plankton and poses a threat to the entire marine food chain and dependant socio-economic activities.

Some of these phenomena are not new but are aggravated by cumulative pressures such as climate change, intensified human activity and technological advances. Furthermore, ecosystems situated in the deep ocean, where biodiversity and habitats often have major value, but are generally not well understood, have virtually no protection at all.

The international community pledged to tackle these challenges at the Summits of Rio (1992) and Johannesburg (2002). However the commitments made remain largely ineffectual and their objectives have not been met. Such has been the case for the pledge to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015, and the promise to create networks of protected marine areas by 2012. Few countries have adopted legislation to reduce land-based marine pollution, leading to an increase in the number of dead ocean areas. More than 400 marine areas have been listed as “biologically dead” to date.

“The full implementation of many of these goals and targets will require further efforts by States, intergovernmental organizations and the international community,” state the authors of the report. They claim the present situation is the result of insufficient political will and resources, inadequate institutional capacities, insufficient scientific data and market imbalances.

“Greening the Blue Economy will be science and technology driven,” they conclude. “But success will depend on sound policy processes and effective institutional arrangements and will therefore require commitment and funding from the international community as well as nations and industry.”

The full press release and report are available here.

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