04/21/2014 11:19 am ET Updated Jun 21, 2014

Global Partnership for the Oceans

Of the many organizations and initiatives dedicated to ocean sustainability, we often point to smaller groups and individuals attempting and succeeding in making a difference through specific actions directed at local issues and solutions. In the modern vernacular of political discourse, we praise these "bottom up" efforts and successes.

I fear that this is partially explained by our collective frustration with the larger agents of governance that appear to move at a pace not commensurate with the urgency of the situation. What is obvious, however, is that the challenge for a sustainable ocean can only be met locally and globally, and that solutions can only come when both efforts support the agreed upon values, objectives, strategies, and tactics articulated and implemented in all places at all levels of action.

To that end, the World Ocean Observatory has become a partner in a newly formed Global Partnership for the Oceans, a growing alliance of some 140 UN agencies, governments, international organizations, civil society groups, private sector companies and associations, research institutions, multilateral banks, and foundations, all committed to addressing the threats to the health, productivity and resilience of the ocean.

According to the press release announcing the Partnership, "...fragmented approaches that fail to consider social, political, economic and ecological relationships will fail to meet the complex challenges facing ocean health." An accompanying report, Indispensable Ocean, prepared by an international panel of 21 ocean leaders from 16 nations, convened by the World Bank, calls for an integrated approach to ocean investment and emphasizes the essential role of public-private partnerships.
The report asserts, "There is no 'silver bullet' to resolving urgent ocean challenges." Therefore, it proposes these five principles to ensure effective GPO investments: (1) sustainable livelihoods, social equity and food security; (2) a healthy ocean; (3) effective governance systems; (4) long-term viability and (5) capacity building and innovation.

In line with previous internationally agreed commitments and taking into consideration growing impacts of climate change:, the Partnership has declared the following interrelated objectives to be achieved by 2022:

1. Sustainable seafood and livelihoods from capture fisheries and aquaculture
• Significantly increase global food fish production from both sustainable aquaculture and sustainable fisheries by adopting best practices and reducing environmental and disease risk to stimulate investment;
• Reduce the open access nature of fisheries by creating responsible tenure arrangements, including secure access rights for fishers and incentives for them to hold a stake in the health of the fisheries; and
• Enable the world's overfished stocks to be rebuilt and increase the annual net benefits of capture fisheries by at least $20 billion, including through reducing subsidies that promote overfishing.

2. Critical coastal and ocean habitats and biodiversity
• Halve the current rate of natural habitat loss and reduce habitat degradation and fragmentation, by applying ecosystem-based approaches to management;
• Increase marine managed and protected areas, and other effective area-based conservation measures, to include at least 10% of coastal and marine areas; and
• Conserve and restore natural coastal habitats to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to climate change impacts.

3. Pollution reduction
• Reduce pollution to levels not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity; and
• Support implementation of the Global Program of Action to reduce pollution, particularly from marine litter, wastewater and excess nutrients, and further develop consensus for achievable goals to reduce these pollutants.

These are certainly not new issues or recommendations. The focus here remains primarily on habitat conservation, marine protected areas, ecosystem-base management, pollution control, and fisheries policy -- all goals included among those in prior international initiatives and the agendas of ocean-related public and private organizations the world over. So what is different about this?

What is proposed here is a new combination of resolve, knowledge, and monetary resources, specifically through a Global Partnership for Oceans Fund, aggregating and maximizing the financial capacity of the Partnership, to invest significantly in these priority areas. The underlying rationale is also compelling -- an understanding, indeed a commitment, that if such investment is successful it will benefit not only the natural ocean environment but the human health, economic and social well being of ocean communities worldwide through the eradication of poverty, increased employment, revival of marine food supplies, and geo-political security through adequately funded proven solutions. As we are all Citizens of the Ocean, we must all participate in the Partnership's success.