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Oceans blog series

Saint-Louis, Senegal: the challenge of sustainability

09 Jun 2017 by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa

Saint-Louis is facing a lot of challenges. Chief among them is the dual threat posed by rising waters and overfishing. Both jeopardize the city’s very survival, its unique heritage and economy. Photo courtesy Eddy Graëff / www.saintlouisdusenegal.com
At the Ocean Conference in New York, we were reminded of two essential truths: life below water, with its rich fauna and flora is precious and the livelihoods that depend on it are in danger. This is especially true along the west coast of Africa, and especially in Senegal, a country where at least two thirds of the population live near coastal areas which are receding at an alarming rate (on average 1 to 2 metres per year) due to rising sea levels and rapid urbanization. Few places illustrate the compounded effects of these predicaments with greater urgency than Saint-Louis, Senegal (also known as Ndar), the island city I am proud to call my hometown. … Read more

Global shadow financial system enables the plunder of the world's oceans and seas

08 Jun 2017 by Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist: Development Finance, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

The UN Ocean Conference aims to reverse the decline in the health of the world’s oceans and seas: Diminishing fish stocks can undermine food security as well as negatively impact the livelihoods of subsistence, small-scale and artisanal fishers. Photo: Dhiraj Singh/UNDP India
In the run up to the Ocean Conference that is ongoing, this blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life below water. This year, the United Nations hosts its “Ocean Conference” from June 5-9 in New York. Billed as a “game changer” event aiming to reverse the decline in the health of the world’s oceans and seas, it is expected to attract thousands of policymakers, scientists and other stakeholders, to stimulate action in support of Sustainable Development Goal 14, “life below water.” That the event is sorely needed is not in question. The state of the world’s oceans and seas is dire, in large part due to human activities, and in particular to human-induced climate change, pollution and overfishing. … Read more

Pacific Small Island States trailblazing fishery management for sustainable oceans

07 Jun 2017 by Jose Padilla, Technical Advisor, Water and Oceans, UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

Sustainable fishing: Over the years, PSIDS have arrived at consensus among themselves placing themselves in a stronger position to institute measures that regulate fishing and at the same time generate substantial revenues from their resources. UNDP photo
In the run up to the Ocean Conference which just started, this blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life below water Two things came to my mind as I made the long flight from Bangkok to Canberra to participate in the Project Steering Committee meeting of the Pacific Oceanic Fisheries Management Project. First, how future livelihoods and sustainability of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) will be affected by global actions, and second, how the ongoing Ocean Conference presents an opportunity for the global community to create more positive outcomes for local communities. … Read more

Why we need to save our oceans now—not later

05 Jun 2017 by José Vicente Troya, Technical Advisor, Ocean and Water Governance, UNDP in Latin America and the Caribbean

UNDP-RBLAC-Jamaica,OldHarborBay3-2014Over 10 million residents of Small Island Developing States depend on the Pacific Ocean for survival. Photo: UNDP Jamaica
What if the blue fades away as seawaters become brown and coral reefs become white as marine grasslands wither and life below water vanishes? This is already happening at a staggering rate. It’s a lose-lose for all: people and planet. Fish stocks are declining. Around 80 percent of fishing is either collapsing or just fully exploited. The ocean is also being polluted at an alarming rate. Fertilizer run-off and 10 to 20 million metric tons of plastic debris enter the oceans each year and destroy biodiversity and ecosystems. At this rate the number of dead zones will increase, and by the year 2050 the oceans could contain more plastic than fish, measured by weight. If we don’t take action now this trend may become irreversible. Recognizing this urgency, country representatives are gathered at the Ocean Conference at the UN headquarters in New York to address marine pollution, declining fisheries, loss of coastal and marine habitat and the vanishing life below water. … Read more

The Ocean Conference: An integrated vision must be delivered

02 Jun 2017 by Jan Kellett, Advisor for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, UNDP

Man a boatGiven the multiplicity of inter-connected vulnerabilities and risks that SIDS face, the Ocean Conference has the task of delivering a thoroughly integrated vision. Photo: UNDP
At the Ocean Conference, scheduled to take place 5-9 June in New York, nations will gather to discuss how best to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life Below Water. This event is critical because it will, for perhaps the first time, focus on how essential our oceans are to our life and livelihoods. Even a glance at the targets and indicators of this goal make that clear: The Ocean SDG is about poverty reduction, economic development, adapting to climate change and protecting the environment, not just the health of the oceans and those who depend on it. Delivering on SDG 14 will help deliver on the other 16 goals and vice versa. … Read more

Connecting the dots for life below water

31 May 2017 by Shoko Noda, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative of the Maldives

Diving reminds us how above and under water lives are inter-dependent. Photo: Shoko Noda/ UNDP
I just finished my two dives for the day and was waiting for the boat to pick us up at our surface location. It was a beautiful calm day with the water as clear as crystal, all I had to do was look down to see the small colorful fishes beneath me. While waiting, my thoughts floated back to my childhood. Growing up in Kobe, Japan, I could not jump into the ocean whenever my parents took me to the beachside, because back then the nearby sea from home was polluted with industrial waste. Many years later, I feel very lucky to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of the Maldivian ocean just around the corner of my apartment. While each dive is as breathtaking as my very first one, these days, I look beyond charismatic turtles and sting rays and appreciate smaller marine creatures that play such an important role in maintaining the much needed delicate marine life balance. The so-called “cleaning stations” are a perfect example of how all the elements in the food web and the ecosystem are interconnected in a seamless harmony.” The cleaning stations are the places on the reef where special “cleaning fishes or shrimps” live. Those colorful tiny fishes play a critical role by cleaning dead skin, bacteria and parasites, which are their main food supply, off the bigger fish such as Groupers. … Read more

Tobacco: A threat to our oceans

24 May 2017 by Roy Small, Policy Analyst, HIV, Health and Development Group, UNDP

cigarettes and plastic duck in waterCigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments. Photo: flickr.com/photos/aceofknaves/
Tobacco is a significant threat to our oceans. Each year, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide, by far the most littered item, with a significant percentage finding their way into our oceans and onto our shores. The problem is only likely to get worse, particularly as smoking rates continue to escalate in many low- and middle-income countries. Less well-known are tobacco’s negative impacts on sustainable development, including on oceanic systems. Yes, you read that right – tobacco is a significant threat to our oceans. Each year, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide, by far the most littered item, with a significant percentage finding their way into our oceans and onto our shores. The problem is only likely to get worse, particularly as smoking rates continue to escalate in many low- and middle-income countries. This “last socially acceptable form of littering” is far more than just an unpleasant aesthetic. Cigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments. In one lab study, the leachate from just one cigarette butt, placed into no more than one litre of water, killed half of all exposed marine and freshwater fish. … Read more

Internal compass for the implementation of SDG 14: Putting local people and communities at the centre

19 May 2017 by Sulan Chen, Programme Advisor, International Waters and Chemicals and Waste Management, UNDP

man repairing a fishnetIn Malaysia, the Small Grants Programme supported an initiative to address accidental capture of sea turtles in commercial and artisanal fisheries. Photo: SGP Malaysia
On 25 September 2015, world leaders adopted the comprehensive and ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since then, life has continued and gone on in thousands of communities around the world, for whom the SDGs are probably of little significance. Indeed, political declarations or statements, if left with no implementation on the ground, are barely anything more than good wills. If, on the other hand, SDGs are people-centered, the focus should be on local people, communities and the ecosystems they rely on for their survival and prosperity. This, in my view, is the internal compass for the implementation of the SDGs. Now that the upcoming Ocean Conference confronts the world to implement SDG 14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”, there is a need to strengthen its implementation at the local level. Guided by this internal compass, the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by UNDP has provided financial resources and technical guidance to communities and civil society organizations for the environment and sustainable development. … Read more

Nature to the rescue: Using ecosystem services to reduce flood risks

12 May 2017 by Saskia Marijnissen, Regional Technical Adviser, Ecosystems and Biodiversity, UNDP Africa

In Sierra Leone, over 3 million people live in increasingly vulnerable coastal areas. Finding innovative and sustainable ways to work together with, rather than against, nature for effective risk reduction is critical. © Tommy Trenchard/ UNEP
From the mouth of the Mississippi to that of the Nile, communities have been drawn to coastal flood plains throughout the centuries. Where rivers and oceans meet, nature is at its best, and river sedimentation provides rich soils that greatly benefit agricultural productivity as well as fisheries. At present, an estimated 60 percent of our global population lives along estuaries and coastlines – making them among the most heavily populated areas of the world. As appealing as coastal areas are, living on a fertile floodplain comes with substantial risks. Floods are the most frequent of all natural disasters globally, and some of the largest disasters have occurred in coastal areas. Think about the devastation done by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or the dangerous floods which happen every year in Bangladesh. … Read more

Oceans of fortune, oceans of peril

26 Apr 2017 by Clotilde Goeman, Regional Technical Advisor, Climate Change Adaptation and International Waters

Boats landed on DRC's coast are exacerbating shore erosion by displacing sand from the beach.Boats landed on DRC's coast are exacerbating shore erosion by displacing sand from the beach. Photo: UNDP
On Africa’s West Coast, the ocean is everything. For thousands of years, its bounty has provided food for families, employment for fisher folk, remarkable sunsets that attract tourists, ports that carry goods and build economic resilience, and coastal barriers that buffer the earth, cleanse the ocean and create a more sustainable ecosystem. The ocean is hearth and home. But changes in the climate are resulting in rising sea levels, degraded fish stocks, coastal degradation, and more. Making this both an ocean of fortune and an ocean of peril. The west coast of Africa represents a major source of revenues for its communities. In some countries, like Senegal, 66 percent of the population live in coastal areas. … Read more