Ocean and Coastal Area Governance

Ocean and Coastal Area Governance

Our oceans cover three-fourths of the earth’s surface, contain 97% of the earth’s water, and represent 99% of the living space on the planet by volume. Oceans, however, are under assault from a variety of pressures, including pollution, overfishing, introduced species, habitat loss and species extinction, and poorly planned and managed coastal development, with associated losses to ecosystems and the livelihoods that depend upon them. Climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions only complicates an already challenging ocean management situation.

Protecting and restoring our precious oceans requires a range of strategies including ecosystem-based approaches, integrated coastal management and significantly expanding marine protected areas including to high seas areas. A range of effective tools have been piloted and are ready for upscaling, such as tradeable fishing quotas, strict no fishing zones, elimination of fishing subsidies, new ballast water management and treatment technologies, and improved nutrient management in river basins feeding coastal zones. Given the significant impacts, both present and future, of climate change on the ocean resources upon which most of humanity depend, rapid progress on a strategic approach to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions represents a critical commitment if we are to meet the ocean sustainability challenge.

UNDP’s Response
Through its Ocean Governance Programme, UNDP is working in cooperation with many other UN agencies, the Global Environment Facility, international financial institutions, regional fisheries organizations and others to improve oceans management and sustain livelihoods at the local, national, regional and global scales through effective oceans governance. Through its Large Marine Ecosystems Programme, UNDP-GEF is supporting ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries and other resource management in over ten of the world’s Large Marine Ecosystems, where 85 percent of the world’s fish catch derives. UNDP, through its PEMSEA programme, has pioneered best practices in integrated coastal management and is supporting 12 East Asian countries in the rapid upscaling of these efforts. UNDP is partnering with the International Maritime Organization in a long-term effort to dramatically reduce the risk of transfer of invasive species through ship ballast water through governance reform and technology development and transfer.

Facts and Figures

  • The Oceans – Engines for Economic Development

The oceans cover three-fourths of the earth’s surface, contain 97% of the earth’s water, and represent 99% of the living space on the planet by volume. The oceans contain nearly 200,000 identified species but actual numbers may lie in the millions. The oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, with over 2.6 billion people depending on the oceans as their primary source of protein. Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people. Marine and coastal resources directly provide over $3 trillion in annual economic goods and services plus an estimated $20.9 trillion per year in non-market ecosystem services, about 63 percent of the value of all such services. In some parts of the world, such as West Africa and the Pacific islands, fisheries represent thirty percent or more of export earnings and provide local livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of coastal fishermen. Ninety percent of all internationally traded goods are transported via shipping.

  • Threats to sustainability of marine and coastal resources

Unfortunately, our oceans remain under assault from a variety of pressures, including pollution (mostly land-based), overfishing, introduced species, habitat loss and species extinction, and poorly planned and managed coastal development. Around half of global fish stocks are fully exploited, and a quarter are depleted, over-exploited or recovering from depletion. An estimated 20% of global mangroves have been lost since 1980, 19% of coral reefs have disappeared, and 29% of seagrass habitat has vanished since 1879. Less than 0.5 percent of marine habitats are protected -- compared with 11.5 per cent of global land area. The number of dead zones, caused by excess nutrient pollution to coastal zones, has been expanding at a geometric pace in recent years, with associated losses to ecosystems and the livelihoods that depend upon them. Invasive marine species, especially those carried in ship ballast water, cause an estimated $100 billion each year in economic damage to infrastructure, ecosystems and livelihoods.

  • New threats from climate change

Climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions only complicates an already challenging ocean management situation. Most of the earth’s available carbon is in the ocean which holds fifty times more carbon than the atmosphere. About half of earth's net primary production, the conversion of water, carbon dioxide, sunlight, and inorganic nutrients into oxygen and hydrocarbons, occurs in the ocean, the remainder on land. Climate change is already affecting ocean temperatures and both horizontal and vertical ocean circulation, driving fish stocks to migrate to more favorable waters. The oceans are estimated to have absorbed about 25 percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. While this has served to mitigate atmospheric warming to some extent, it has had the negative effect of increasing the acidity of the oceans by 30 percent, with significant threats to calcium carbonate fixing organisms that serve as the foundation for many ocean food chains upon which hundreds of millions depend upon for protein and livelihoods. Sea level rise, due to both the thermal expansion of seawater and glacial melt, threaten millions living in the coastal zone and island states, mostly in the world’s least developed countries.