Discussing the future of the environment is now synonymous with discussing economic development and how the environment features within these plans.
The ocean presents a specific set of issues within this discussion, due to its international nature and the fact that we know so little about it. This means action to globally safeguard the marine environment is often too slow, or inadequate.
The ocean fluidly ignores boundaries that humans construct and pollution, over-fishing or invasive alien species affects the ocean as a whole and rarely just one nation state.
Oceanic protection therefore requires countries to make decisions that are in the interests of ‘the bigger picture’ and not just about themselves. This is a simple statement but considerably more difficult in practice.
The new Global Partnership for Oceans has been formed by a plethora of different organisations such as the World Bank, WWF, the World Ocean Council, National Geographic and the Nature Conservancy. This alliance aims to help build global partnerships that combat global issues facing oceanic protection.
This kind of collaboration is desperately needed, to bring a holistic view and practical solutions to the marine sustainability debate. The organisation is overwhelmingly made up of international bodies with an economic interest in the ocean.
For true conservationists, this focus can feel uncomfortable. Should everything be about business?
One element of the new partnership that makes sense is the proposal to include the environment as ‘capital’ in other words it has a dollar value as a healthy, functioning ecosystem that is included on a country’s balance sheet.
If there is a decline in this health, there is a dollar decline that is described as a very real (and large) monetary value. This system of accounting for the environment is called Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES).
It seems a shame that for the public and private sector to recognise the value of their natural environment, a price has to be attached to it. But given the environmental deadlock that is happening worldwide, this method has obvious strengths and will hopefully encourage more international collaboration regarding oceanic protection.
For further reading about the Global Partnership for Oceans please see their website: www.globalpartnershipforoceans.org
Here are some interesting facts from the Global Partnership for Oceans:
- There are 405 dead zones in the world covering 246,048 square kilometres of ocean, an area approximately the size of New Zealand
- Around 35 per cent of mangroves have been lost in the past 30 years
- Coastal wetland destruction alone may account for one to three per cent of global emissions of CO2
- Less than two per cent of the World’s oceans are protected
- About 85 per cent of the world’s ocean fisheries are categorised as fully exploited, over-exploited, or depleted.