Ocean News

A New Global Partnership for Healthy Seas

27th February 2012

Last week, the head of the World Bank Robert B. Zoellick announced the establishment of a Global Partnership for Oceans to confront widely documented problems of over-fishing, marine degradation, and habitat loss. Speaking at the Economist World Oceans Summit in Singapore, Zoellick described the initiative:

This Partnership will bring together countries, scientific centers, NGOs, international organizations, foundations, and the private sector to pool knowledge, experience, expertise, and investment around a set of agreed upon goals. These goals can sharpen our focus, encourage common and reinforcing efforts, and compel us to measure performance. Together, we will build on the excellent work already being done to address the threats to oceans, identify workable solutions, and scale them. We can also mobilize financing where there are gaps.

There are an estimated 350 million jobs worldwide that are linked in one way or another to the oceans, so it’s not surprising that the World Bank has taken an interest, bringing together major NGOs, regulatory bodies, and private funding to tackle these issues. But what about the specifics? The Partnership has identified four major goals for the next 10 years:

  • Rebuilding at least half the world’s fish stocks identified as depleted: About 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited, or depleted. This includes most of the stocks of the top ten fish species, or about 30 percent of the world’s marine capture fisheries production. There’s no room for further expansion – we need to start rebuilding.
  • Increasing the annual net benefits of fisheries to between $20 and $30 billion. We estimate that global fisheries currently run a net economic loss of about $5 billion per year. We need to turn this around, by allocating and enforcing the rights of fisheries and reforming subsidies.
  • Doubling the area covered by marine protected areas. Currently, less than 2 percent of the ocean’s surface is protected – compared to around 12 percent of land. Let’s increase this to 5 percent .
  • Increasing sustainable aquaculture to provide two thirds of the world’s fish. Today, that figure is about 50 percent, but there are serious concerns over disease management, feed use, and introduction of non-native species. We need to do much better, not only to help secure a reliable source of food, but also to take the pressure off of ocean fish stocks.

With such a broad base of support and funding, hopefully this partnership will make inroads where on issues where political will – such as the reform of fishing subsidies and the establishment and enforcement of catch regulations – has been lacking. Find out more about the Partnership here.