A new report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlights the urgent need for a global “Blue Deal” to protect and invest in the world’s oceans.
The report reveals that the ocean economy is worth an estimated $3-6 trillion and is critical for the livelihoods of approximately 3 billion people who rely on the ocean for food and income.
However, the report also warns that the ocean is under threat from climate change, pollution, and overfishing, which are jeopardizing opportunities for developing countries to build innovative and resilient economies.
A “Blue Deal” would drive more investment into emerging sustainable sectors, such as seaweed farming and plastics substitutes, according to UNCTAD. The global market for seaweed has more than tripled in two decades and provides an alternative to plastic – 11 million tonnes of which flow into the ocean each year, the report says. The report also suggests using sustainable materials, such as bamboo, coconut husks, and agricultural wastes, to make eco-friendly versions of everyday plastic products.
Investing in these emerging ocean sectors could help developing countries to diversify their ocean exports, which are worth an estimated $1.3 trillion globally, according to the report. However, the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the vulnerability of some sectors, such as coastal tourism, and the report urges governments to promote a diverse and sustainable ocean economy in crisis recovery strategies and climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.
The report also calls for urgent action to protect fish stocks and marine biodiversity, urging countries to ratify the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, which will prohibit support for overfishing, and the Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction agreement, creating tools for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources.
The report highlights that the Sustainable Development Goal dedicated to life below water (SDG 14) is the least funded of all the goals, with only 1.6% of total Official Development Assistance directed to the ocean economy from 2013 to 2018. To achieve SDG 14 by 2030, an estimated $175 billion per year is required.
“The ocean economy offers many opportunities. We must strike the right balance between benefitting from the ocean and protecting its resources,” said UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Pedro Manuel Moreno.
“Now is the time to set a new course by investing more in building a sustainable ocean economy,” he added.
Sign up for our newsletter