It is only ten years until 2030, the deadline for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. To reach the SDGs we will have to produce more from the oceans.
The ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the ocean economy are far-reaching. We are not yet able to grasp them fully. Activities in most ocean-related sectors have been reduced. This affects the food security of millions of people.
The measures implemented to control the disease also have an effect on ocean activities. This comes on top of the direct impacts of the pandemic. It is therefore likely that the effects of the COVID-19 crisis will be felt long after the health emergency is over. The world economy may be coping with the threat of uncertainty for the foreseeable future.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, we must build back better greener and bluer.
There is an enormous growth potential in the ocean economy.
In recent years, the ocean has produced USD 2.5 trillion in goods and services each year, and the asset value of the ocean has been estimated at USD 24 trillion.
Today, only 5% of global food consumption comes from the oceans. This share must be increased if we are to reach our global goal of eradicating hunger and extreme poverty. We must use the untapped potential of the oceans for food, for medicines and as a source of energy.
Value creation based on the use of marine resources is, however, dependent on the maintenance of healthy oceans. It is therefore crucial to combat littering and depletion of species and habitats.
We must stop the degradation of the world’s marine ecosystems and improve the environmental status of the oceans. We have to ensure that the marine ecosystems can continue to provide the services we all depend on. This means that we need to cooperate across sectors.
Effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity need to go hand-in-hand.
Science-based integrated management was the main theme of the sixth Our Ocean Conference in Oslo in October last year.
Integrated ocean management can take many forms. Marine spatial planning is a commonly used tool, as well as more sector-based management.
The main thing is to consider multiple uses and pressures simultaneously. In that way we can reconcile competing uses with the objective of ensuring the sustainability of societies and marine ecosystems. The legitimacy of the process lies in transparency and inclusiveness, so that those affected by the management also have a say in the management.
Coastal and indigenous communities have invaluable experience and knowledge that is necessary for the development of ecosystem-based fisheries management.
This is also the essence of the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy co-chaired by the Norwegian Prime Minister, namely to increase the international understanding of how sustainable use of the oceans and maintenance of good environmental status can lead to significant value creation.
This is the kind of integrated approach we need to continue to reap the benefits of the ocean. At all the important international processes ahead of us – the Our Ocean Conference, the UN Ocean Conference, the UN Summit on Biodiversity which takes place today, COP 26, the UN Decade on Ocean Science – we need to place the connection between effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity centre stage.