Mounting ocean health problems -- which are threatening the primary food source for more than 1 billion people -- can be fixed, but only with public and private sectors working together to a much greater extent, according to a World Bank blue ribbon panel.
"The key to reversing the decline in oceans is a much more cohesive, integrated collaboration between public and private sectors," said Jane Lubchenco, the former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and member of the blue ribbon panel.
The World Bank convened 21 experts from government, academia, industry and conservation to develop high-level guidelines for investment in ocean health made through the agency's Global Partnership for Oceans, an alliance of more than 140 organizations.
The report released today details how human health is inextricably tied to ocean health. The panel recommends that investments focus on improving sustainable livelihoods and food security as well as healthy habitats and ecosystems. Investments also should have effective enforcement measures, have a lasting impact, be innovative and boost local communities, the report added.
"Choosing between the economy and the environment is really a false dichotomy," Lubchenco said in an interview. "Previous attempts have often bought into that false view of the world and have not been as integrated or cohesive or really reflect the multiple approaches needed to craft durable solutions."
The report's effectiveness remains to be seen, but it derives its strength from the voices who crafted it, Lubchenco said. She and others had never seen such a diverse group of leaders from around the world and across sectors sitting together at one table discussing how to help the oceans.
"It was clear everyone wanted a sustainable ocean," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, panel chairman and ocean science adviser to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Everyone was of a similar mind: We needed to change what we were doing and form new strategies for dealing with problems of the ocean."
Oceans are experiencing significant declines due to overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction as well as warming and acidifying waters. The document focuses on tackling the first three problems, which are the key focus of the Global Partnership for Oceans.
The panel worked under the assumption that global leaders will address increasing greenhouse gas emissions, which are driving climate change, ocean warming and acidification, Hoegh-Guldberg said.
The solution-focused report strikes a more positive tone than others out in recent weeks detailing the accelerating decline in ocean health (Greenwire, Oct. 15; Greenwire, Oct. 3).
Hoegh-Guldberg acknowledged there is plenty of bad ocean news but said society has the tools and know-how to stop the oceans -- which he described as Earth's "heart and lungs" -- from failing.
"Another 10 years, we don't have that option," he said.