Policy News

Leadership by Oregon State Helps 14 Nations Commit to Sustainable Ocean Management by 2025

Leaders of 14 major maritime nations announced on December 02, 2020, their commitment to achieve 100% sustainable ocean management of their national waters by 2025, acting on recommendations of a group of global experts co-chaired by Oregon State University marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco.

“This is the result of nearly three years of work and represents a remarkable example of knowledge informing policy and action,” said Lubchenco, university distinguished professor in the OSU College of Science, whose group of science and policy experts was commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, known as the Ocean Panel for short. “The countries on the Ocean Panel are listening to science, learning from each other and working together. That’s a powerful combination.

“Phase 1 of the panel’s work was knowledge production,” Lubchenco added. “Phase 2 is policy and action, and that phase launches now. We can use the ocean wisely, rather than using it up, but only if we get serious about doing so. These documents point the way.”

Led by the leaders of Norway and Palau, the Ocean Panel also features heads of state and government from Portugal, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, Chile, Mexico, Jamaica, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Fiji and Australia. Collectively, those nations represent nearly 40% of the world’s coastlines, 30% of the exclusive economic zones, 20% of the globe’s fisheries and 20% of maritime shipping. Together, their national waters cover 30 million square kilometers, a combined area roughly the size of Africa.

Lubchenco, in her role as Expert Group co-chair along with Norwegian oceanographer Peter Haugan of the University of Bergen and Indonesian economist Mari Elka Pangestu, helped coordinate more than 250 experts from 48 countries in the production of 19 peer-reviewed papers plus an Ocean Solutions Report to the Ocean Panel. The three co-chairs also published a paper this week (December 2) in the premier scientific journal Nature summarizing the knowledge produced and the policy commitments made.

“I was fortunate to draw upon the expertise of many OSU scientists and serve as a conduit for their work to the Ocean Panel,” Lubchenco said. “The Ocean Panel work has drawn directly on work produced at OSU, specifically on climate change, food from the sea, biodiversity and marine protected areas.”

The 14 nations making up the Ocean Panel have agreed to a holistic approach to ocean management that aims to balance effective ocean protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity.

em1 50670294772 c02c7e33ed oThe Ocean Panel urges every coastal and ocean nation to commit to sustainably managing all of the sea’s exclusive economic zones by 2030. The results, the panel says, would include producing as much as six times more food from the ocean, generating up to 40 times more renewable energy, lifting millions of people from poverty and contributing 20% of the global greenhouse gas emission reductions needed by 2050 to stay within the 1.5° Celsius limit called for in the 2016 Paris Agreement.

“The ocean is neither too big to fail nor too big to fix, but it is too big and too central to our future to ignore,” Lubchenco said. “The ocean holds untapped potential to provide real solutions to urgent global problems from climate change and food security to biodiversity loss and inequality. If the Ocean Panel’s historic commitments to action are implemented, the resulting successes will swell into a wave of smart actions by other key players – enabling people, nature and the economy to thrive.”

Six principles comprise the Ocean Panel’s guiding philosophy:

  • Alignment: With the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Polluter Pays Principle as set out in the Rio Declaration.
  • Inclusiveness: Human rights, gender equality, community and Indigenous participation, through free, prior and informed consent, must be respected and protected.
  • Knowledge: Ocean management must be informed by the best available science and knowledge and aided by innovation and technology.
  • Legality: The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea is the legal basis for all ocean activities.
  • Precaution: Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shouldn’t be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
  • Protection: A net gain approach must be applied to ocean uses to help sustain or restore the health of the ocean.
  • Resilience: The resilience of the ocean and ocean economy must be enhanced.
  • Solidarity: The need for access to finance, technology and capacity building for developing countries, especially small island developing states and least developed countries, must be recognized.
  • Sustainability: The production and harvesting of ocean resources must be sustainable and support resilient ecosystems and future productivity.

“Fourteen serving world leaders asked for a series of reports on food from the sea, climate change, the ocean genome, illegal fishing, biodiversity, finance, equity, data and technology, ocean accounting, pollution, marine spatial planning, ocean energy and more,” Lubchenco said. “It is exciting and gratifying to see presidents and prime ministers ask for, listen to and follow scientific guidance.”

Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, another researcher in the OSU College of Science, was a lead author of a paper on the ocean genome that will appear in the Dec. 3 print edition of Nature and be featured on Nature’s website among a collection of ocean papers. Also appearing in print and in the online collection will be Lubchenco’s paper on the future of food from the sea.

“The work of Grorud-Colvert and OSU’s Jenna Sullivan-Stack features prominently in the Ocean Solutions Report and the Ocean Panel final commitments,” Lubchenco said. “Their work on marine protected areas strongly influenced the Ocean Panel’s call for fully protecting 30% of the global ocean by 2030.”

The Ocean Panel also convened an advisory network of leaders from business, finance and civil society. Those groups have pledged to help realize the goals identified by the Ocean Panel.

“All-in-all, it is exciting to see world leaders put a healthy ocean at the top of the global policy agenda, and to begin to realize the potential to accelerate economic recovery through bold ocean action,” Lubchenco said.

By Steve Lundeberg

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