A new report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) stresses 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 estimated to be worth US$3-6 trillion and is critical to the livelihoods of some 3 billion people who depend 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 threatens opportunities for developing countries to build innovative and resilient economies.
According to UNCTAD, a “Blue Deal” would drive more investment in emerging sustainable sectors such as algae farming and plastic substitutes. The global market for seaweed has more than tripled in two decades, offering an alternative to plastic — 11 million tons of which end up in the sea every year, the report said. The report also suggests using sustainable materials like bamboo, coconut shells and agricultural waste to create eco-friendly versions of everyday plastic products.
Investing in these emerging marine sectors could help developing countries diversify their marine exports, which are worth an estimated $1.3 trillion globally, according to the report. However, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of some sectors such as coastal tourism, and the report urges governments to promote a diverse and sustainable marine economy in crisis management strategies and climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
The report also calls for urgent action to protect fish stocks and marine biodiversity, and urges countries to ratify the World Trade Organization’s Fisheries Subsidy Agreement, which will ban support for overfishing, and to ratify the Marine Biodiversity Agreement beyond national jurisdiction and to create instruments for the fair and equitable protection of marine biodiversity.
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 all Official Development Assistance going to the marine economy from 2013 to 2018 An estimated $175 billion a year will be needed by 2030.
“The marine economy offers many opportunities. We need to find the right balance between using the ocean and protecting its resources,” said UNCTAD Deputy Secretary General Pedro Manuel Moreno.
“Now is the time to change course by investing more in building a sustainable ocean economy,” he added.