The health of our entire planet is inextricably linked to the health of the ocean. For decades, centuries even, we have used the ocean as our playground, our food store, our motorway and our dumping ground, but as we approach the end of this turbulent year we all need to acknowledge that the ocean is not too big to fail. We are pushing it – and ourselves – to the brink and, in doing so, we are wilfully squandering the opportunity of a lifetime. The true potential of the ocean remains relatively untapped: the potential to deliver 21% of the emissions reductions needed to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C; the potential to deliver six times more food than it does today; the potential to leverage five dollars of benefits for every single dollar invested into a sustainable ocean economy.

Over the course of 2020, global leaders have joined forces on the High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy (the Ocean Panel), a unique initiative of 14 serving world leaders building momentum towards a sustainable ocean economy, where effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand in hand. Never before have so many leaders of the world’s ocean nations come together in such a collaborative way outside the UN framework. The Ocean Panel member states, which together account for 40% of the world’s coastlines and 30% of the so-called exclusive economic zones, are seeking to bring about transformative change for our collective blue economy.

Blue economy fishing
Jeremy Holden/FFI

This week sees the launch of the Ocean Panel transformations. This headline commitment from a range of countries sets out a list of bold, yet pragmatic, priority actions to transform how the world can both protect and harness the ocean. A new relationship with the ocean is needed moving forward if we are to manage humanity’s impacts on it. We cannot rely on the ocean to provide us with food and oxygen if we do not start to value it and come together to create a truly sustainable blue economy.

A truly sustainable ocean economy is fundamental to life on Earth. FFI will seek to further the agenda of the Ocean Panel countries as far as we can, supporting the establishment of marine protected areas and sustainable fisheries at our many project sites around the world.
Mark Rose Chief Executive Officer

Adding its voice to the UK-led 30by30 global initiative (which calls for 30% of the ocean to be designated as marine protected areas by 2030), the Ocean Panel is urging us all to “Give it 100%” and looking to coastal nations to sustainably manage 100% of the ocean area under national jurisdiction (guided by sustainable ocean plans) by 2025. This can be achieved by systemic change in five key areas (ocean health, ocean wealth, ocean equity, ocean finance and ocean knowledge) with priority actions to embark on a path to a sustainable blue economy by 2030. The transformations seek to restore the health of people and the economy in the midst of the pandemic by ensuring that the future of coastal countries is entwined with the future and health of the ocean.

blue economy coral reefs
Matt Glue/FFI

We need to come together to address the critical needs of our blue planet in order to survive. Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working to advance the ocean agenda in 15 countries globally, of which two, Kenya and Indonesia, are signatories to the transformations. As a member of the Ocean Panel’s Advisory Network (comprising more than 135 private-sector, non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations across 35 countries), FFI is committed to help implement, accelerate and scale action on the part of our in-country partners and through engagement in the so-called Action Coalitions that are starting to form around key issues.

There is no doubt that the challenges facing the ocean – and indeed the entire world – are daunting. These ambitious transformations set out a pragmatic agenda that puts at least these 14 nations on a pathway to developing the solutions needed. For years we have relied on the vastness of the ocean to cover a multitude of sins, but now we must act. Our ocean is simply too big and too central to the planet’s future to ignore.

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"A healthy ocean is fundamental to life on our planet. We're calling on global governments to commit an initial $500 billion for nature, with that amount increasing every year"

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