Clean the Ocean, Green the Economy, UN Report Urges

A new report urges focusing on the world’s seas and oceans in the quest for sustainable development and economic progress. Green Economy in a Blue World, produced by a several organizations headed by the United Nations Environmental Program, asserts that the ocean, and how we see and use it, must play a huge role in the much-needed transition to a new, green economy.

The report looks at a wide variety of human impacts on ocean health, from fisheries to coastal tourism to marine-based renewable energy and ocean nutrient pollution. About 40 percent of the world’s population lives within 62 miles (100 km)  of a coast; the ocean provides food and jobs for millions of people, but human activity is endangering ocean health through pollution and overuse.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner summarizes the challenge: “Oceans are a key pillar for many countries in their development and fight to tackle poverty, but the wide range of ecosystem services, including food security and climate regulation, provided by marine and coastal environments are today under unprecedented pressure.” The report comes out just five months before a major international summit meeting, Rio +20, that will address issues of sustainable development.

Turning Around Overfishing

Overfishing has devastated fish stocks, with 32% of global fish stocks estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion and a further 50% estimated to be “fully exploited.” Overfishing has harmed food security around the world and worsened poverty.  The report notes that reduction of fishing, the use of non-destructive fishing techniques, and the adoption of green technology by the fishing industry could halt the decline of stocks, with a potential economic gain of $50 billion a year.

Measuring True Cost and True Value

Yet pure economic measurements cannot encompass the myriad services the oceans and seas provide. The report recommends, “Shifting economy’s purpose away from the pure GDP-measured production of market values leads to new questions on broader societal goals, such as equity, security and the maintanance of natural capital.” It concludes “A less energy-intensive, more labor-intensive, less destructive, more sustainable, less exclusive, more integrative approach will lead to more jobs, strengthen intra-and inter-generational equity and empower people to economic participation and greater self-determination. An integrated approach and broad based commitment is needed: “Greening our ocean economies is a challenge that needs commitment from each of us – as the individual consumer, investor, entrepreneur or politician.”

A thoughtful, long-term view of the conservation of marine resources is vital to preserving the multiple benefits of a healthy ocean; long-term thinking and international cooperation would help a lot on land, as well.

Photo: Kelp and sardines. CA Dept of Fish and Game website

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Huber F.
Huber F.3 years ago


Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Terry Vanderbush
Terry V.3 years ago

Good start.
EXCELLENT article! Thank you

Lucy Bell
Lucy Bell3 years ago

I'm very worried about what we are doing to our oceans, I don't even eat fish or shellfish anymore even though I miss it because I try to make a small difference... And then BP just pours gallons of oil into the sea and I want to scream

LMj Sunshine

thank you for sharing.

David N.
David N.3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M.3 years ago

The oceans will sustain a great number of people who depend on the fish as food, expecially with the world population increasing so much.
My question..How can they clean up the oceans of all the garbage and plastics which naturally have a big impact on the fish and birds??? It is impairative to teach the younger generations now, about keeping the oceans clean, and benefits that will come from it. Very thought provoking article. Good Luck to the United Nations Environmental Program!

Darren Tan
Darren Tan3 years ago

Eat fish from sustainable sources. WWF offfers guides for different countries:

Leszek P.
Leszek P.3 years ago

A clean and healthy oceans are a priority, in addition to the rain forests. Life comes from water...

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim3 years ago

A healthy ocean makes the world healthy :) People need to make changes in their lives and become more aware of their actions and what they can do, whether small or big.