A new global effort aims to improve the health of ocean ecosystems

15 Feb 2013

Boston, USA – A broad coalition of experts convenes here Saturday to detail a new global effort to improve the health of the world’s imperiled oceans, notably through major financial assistance to developing countries worldwide.

Senior officials from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Global Environment Facility (GEF), International Council for Exploration of the Sea, UN Development Program (UNDP), and UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission will present their work to scientists, experts, educators and media at a one-day conference on “Stress, Sustainability and Development of Large Marine Ecosystems during Climate Change”.

The conference at Boston’s John F. Kennedy Library comes alongside annual meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which will bring some 6,000 natural and social scientists to Boston.

Each year the world’s 64 Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs) contribute trillions of dollars to the global economy, through fisheries, shipping, tourism, and oil and gas exploitation—providing critical contributions to global food security, energy supplies, ecosystem services, and poverty reduction.

But overfishing, pollution, invasive species, and accelerated warming and acidification resulting from climate change pose a grave and worsening threat to the world’s oceans—many of which are already in steep decline. Without concerted action, the damage could become irreversible, threatening trillions of dollars in goods and services annually and the livelihoods of millions of people.

The panel will deliver several key messages:

  • Most key challenges facing ocean ecosystems, including nutrient pollution/hypoxia, overfishing, invasive species, surface warming and ocean acidification are worsening at an accelerating pace, underscoring the need for urgent action;
  • Sound science and socioeconomics, supported by robust ocean data and information systems, provide vital inputs to maintaining the trillions of dollars in goods and services provided by LMEs annually;
  • A suite of strategic planning tools and methodologies has proven effective at creating the necessary enabling policy environment to catalyze billions of dollars in financial flows for ocean restoration and protection;
  • The level of public financial resources required to scale up proven ocean management planning and policy tools and methodologies is within reach of existing and emerging financial mechanisms such as the GEF;
  • Sustainable management of the world’s LMEs could become a successful legacy of today’s decision-makers.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Dr Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, will address solutions to three critically important ocean health tipping points—climate warming, oxygen depletion events, and acidification—and how these link to the Obama administration’s new oceans policy.
  • Dr Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the GEF, will describe her strategy for the GEF to promote sustainable development of LMEs. Dr. Ishii heads the world’s largest public institution financing projects to benefit the global environment. The GEF has cumulatively provided more than US$1 billion in grant assistance, leveraging 3 to 4 times as much in co-financing, for actions to sustain fisheries, reduce pollution and hypoxia, and prevent marine invasive species.
  • From a European perspective, Dr Anne Christine Brusendorff, ICES General Secretary, will share the Baltic Sea LME experience, in which a GEF grant investment of US$12 million to introduce the modular assessment and management approach to Baltic Sea countries helped leverage US$100 million in EU financing for improving Baltic Sea health.
  • Dr Veerle Vandeweerd, Director of UNDP’s Environment and Energy Group, will describe a recent UNDP/GEF publication, Catalyzing Ocean Finance, which—drawing from strategies and results in the UNDP/GEF International Waters portfolio over the last 20 years—demonstrates how a modest investment of public finance can scale up proven ocean planning and policy tools, catalyze sizeable financial flows, transform ocean markets, and reverse the global decline in ocean health.
  • Dr Wendy Watson-Wright, IOC-UNESCO, will describe IOC’s long-term commitment to advancing the application of marine science, data, and information to promote ecosystem-based management of LMEs, and its efforts to help nations monitor and adapt to the impacts of climate change on oceans.

A distinguished panel will also examine the role of marine spatial planning (MSP) in restoring and sustaining ocean health, describing MSP practice in North America, South America, Africa, and Asia.

Discussion will continue on Sunday, 17 February, at the AAAS Symposium on LMEs at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center. Senior LME scientists will present results of GEF-supported projects conducted by the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea for the Yellow Sea LME; by Angola, South Africa, and Namibia for the Benguela Current LME; and by Chile and Peru on the Humboldt Current LME.

Key recent reports will be made available to participants and media, including:

Contact Information

Sarah Jackson-Han, UNDP   sarah.jackson-han@undp.org