A new report released on Monday by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) points to the need for countries to reach a “blue pact” to protect the oceans. The report, presented at the third UN Trade Forum, assesses the impact of human activity and numerous global crises on the world’s ocean economy, estimated at between three and six trillion dollars.
The oceans provide great opportunities for developing countries to build more innovative and resilient economies. The health of the oceans, which are home to 80% of life on Earth, has reached a critical point. Climate change, pollution and overfishing threaten the livelihoods of some 3 billion people who depend on the oceans for food and income. We must harness the potential of the ocean economy to drive sustainable development.
Goal 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established in 2015 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, decrees the following with regard to the oceans:
“GOAL 14: CONSERVE AND SUSTAINABLY USE THE OCEANS, SEAS AND MARINE RESOURCES.”
What would be the benefits of achieving a “Blue Pact”?
The main benefits of forging a “blue pact” to protect the oceans would be the following:
Investments in emerging sustainable sectors: The report highlights in particular two sectors with great future potential from which developing countries could benefit: seaweed farming and plastic substitutes. Seaweed provides us with opportunities for food, biofuels and cosmetics. They are also a highly desirable alternative to plastics, which are seriously damaging to good health, as 11 million tonnes of plastics reach the oceans every year.
Diversify exports: Exports of ocean goods, such as seafood and port equipment, and services such as shipping and coastal tourism reached a global value of $1’3 trillion in 2020. The global COVID-19 pandemic reduced exports of maritime goods by 3.2%, while those of services fell by 59%. The report stresses that governments should include the goal of promoting a diversified and sustainable ocean economy.
Protect marine biodiversity: Approximately $35 billion of public subsidies are spent on fishing activities. The report calls on countries to ratify the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Fisheries Subsidies Agreement, adopted on 17 June 2022, as soon as possible. In addition, it calls on governments to adopt and ratify the agreement on Marine Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdictions on 4 March 2023.