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14-Nation Panel Introduces Plan to Promote Sustainability in the Ocean’s “Blue Economy”

  • 14 nations, representing 30 percent of the exclusive economic zones in the world’s oceans, commit to a sustainable “blue economy” in the waters they control by 2025
  • Goals include sustainable fishing activities, new commercial opportunities like seaweed and algae farming, and improved ocean energy
  • Group is inviting other coastal nations to join the coalition, though the initiatives have also raised some skepticism

A group of 14 nations, accounting for 40 percent of the world’s coastlines and control of 30 percent of Earth’s oceans via exclusive economic zones, has released a report with recommendations for a more sustainable “blue economy” over the next decade.

The nations that form the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, first established in 2018, are committing to 100 percent sustainable management of the oceans in their economic purview by 2025. It is also encouraging all coastal nations to join the initiative for complete sustainable management of the oceans under national control by 2030.

The panel’s goals include eliminating illegal or unregulated fishing activities and restoring wild fish stocks to sustainable levels, improving aquaculture to meet demand, making renewable ocean energy options (such as offshore wind, tidal, and thermal) more accessible and competitive, investing in new commercial activities like seaweed and algae farming, and a cautious approach to seabed mining. It also hopes that these steps will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ocean warming, curtail pollution, and protect biodiversity.

The panel says the blue economy produces $2.5 trillion in goods and services annually, with the world’s oceans having an estimated asset value of $24 trillion. It says its recommendations are based on hundreds of scientific reports and estimates that the recommended measures would increase food production sixfold, make 40 times as much renewable energy available, and contribute one-fifth of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to hit the 1.5-degree Celsius warming goal set in the Paris climate agreement.

The proposal has received some pushback. Some provincial governments and the fishing industry in Canada have argued that the creation of marine refuges and protected areas will harm the nation’s economy. Critics also suggest that setting aside such areas will simply move fishing activities elsewhere, and that more effective solutions such as improved fishing gear are available.

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