A unique panel of business, government, conservation and academic leaders has agreed a global strategy for aligning ocean health and human well-being. The Blue Ribbon Panel, which includes 21 global experts from 16 countries, emphasizes that without action to turn around the declining health of the ocean, the consequences for economies, communities and ecosystems will be irreversible.
Recent science from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) has intensified the focus on declining ocean health.
“Ocean change is climate change and vice versa,” said panel chair and ocean adviser to the IPCC Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. “With looming threats of rising sea levels, warmer waters and a growing human population we need healthy oceans and coasts to mitigate climate change, feed billions and protect coastal communities.”
But there is good news: solutions exist that benefit both oceans and economies, according to the panel’s report.
Convened by the World Bank to advise the Global Partnership for Oceans (GPO), the Panel includes high-level players ranging from CEOs of some of the largest seafood companies in the world - including Thai Union Frozen Products, Bumble Bee Foods and High Liner Foods - to government officials and prominent marine conservationists.
According to the panel, fragmented approaches that fail to consider social, political, economic and ecological relationships will fail to meet the complex challenges facing ocean health. The report calls for an integrated approach to ocean investment and emphasizes the essential role of public-private partnerships.
“Getting to healthy oceans is a global challenge that needs the concentrated effort of big and small business, government and science,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. “Though they brought very different world views, everyone on this panel agreed that we can’t keep going with business-as-usual and all parts of society must be part of the solution.”
The panel agreed there is no “silver bullet” to resolving urgent ocean challenges. Therefore, it proposes these five principles to ensure effective GPO investments: (1) sustainable livelihoods, social equity and food security; (2) a healthy ocean; (3) effective governance systems; (4) long-term viability and (5) capacity building and innovation.
“Being a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel has been a rewarding opportunity to collaborate with key players and thought leaders in ocean sustainability." said panelist Chris Lischewski, President and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods. “The process reinforces that improving ocean health is a complex process that requires participation and interaction across a broad sphere of communities, industries and governments.”
The Panel’s principle-based strategy provides an approach to prioritize where, when and how the GPO can take action with high impact. The panel recommends that the principles be incorporated into all levels of reform - from fisheries management to incentives for pollution reduction to habitat restoration.
“Bringing this diverse and powerful group together to reach consensus on the challenges and what needs to be done shows what is possible through effective global partnership,” said Juergen Voegele of the World Bank. “The panel’s top priorities build naturally from the GPO’s objectives of healthy oceans and poverty alleviation and their recommendations will make this partnership strategic in how and where it works.”
“This is a critical time in history,” said panelist Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum. “All levels of society and all stakeholders need to combine in joint action as a response to this very global problem.”
Photo courtesy of Alex Earl, Project AWARE Foundation Executive Director