Without doubt, preventing further damage to the ocean is central to tackling climate disruption and sustaining the recovery of fisheries and coastal resources.

The G7 comprises the world’s most advanced economies, representing 58% of global net worth ($317 trillion) with the resources to lead global ocean protection and recovery. Ahead of their arrival to Cornwall, UK for their 2021 Summit, they asked the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) to set out key ways to improve sustainable use of the ocean.

As one of the 16 core advisors to IPSO, I bring research expertise on fisheries and the effects of climate change as well as an interest in how to incorporate the ‘rights of nature’ into national and international law. It is my scientific view that we cannot solve the climate or biodiversity crises if we ignore the ocean; we need to prioritise urgent action to protect marine life.

In IPSO’s statement to G7 ministers, we recognise their capacity and political will to tackle climate disruption, reverse biodiversity loss, support human wellbeing, and embark on an inspirational recovery from the pandemic. 

We provide key information for ministers that sets out how to: stop damaging the ocean; protect and restore the ocean; and lead a decade of global ocean action. We have seven asks.

1. Ban destructive activity

G7 states must urgently stop funding, supporting, or permitting highly destructive activities and redirect incentives towards positive outcomes that benefit people and the planet.

I’ve seen first-hand the death of coral reefs and kelp forests due to marine heat waves, as well as the corrosive effects of ocean acidification. I spent a decade of my career documenting the damage that trawls and scallop dredges do to ancient seabed habitats like maerl beds and deep sea coral reefs.

To stand any chance of slowing down the rate of damage to the climate, the G7 must implement an immediate ban of all new offshore oil and gas exploration and production, whilst rapidly phasing out existing extraction. In addition, ban all bottom trawling and dredging on vulnerable marine ecosystems and in all marine protected areas.

Subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing should be withdrawn. Work at the University of Plymouth has shown that fisheries need to be managed to become more viable, less damaging to ecosystems, and of benefit to the greatest number of people.

2. Unite to regulate and eliminate ocean pollution

Research at the University of Plymouth has shown that pollution, from plastics through to noise created by human activity, has a profoundly negative impact on marine life and, in turn, on our wellbeing. It is time to establish and act upon policies and regulations for all forms of pollution, embedding a precautionary approach to new compounds and negotiating a Global Plastics Treaty.

3. Expand ocean protection and restoration

Only 2.7% of the ocean is fully or highly protected, in sharp contrast to the 30% or more called for by the scientific community. We know marine protected areas work – our research has shown that not only can they support habitat regeneration, but also benefit those who rely on the sea socio-economically.

The G7 should lead the way in agreeing ocean protection and restoration targets and coordinate their implementation with climate and biodiversity policy, taking an approach that recognises the inter-connectivity between climate change, carbon sequestration, and ecosystems.

<p>Ocean acidification coral</p>
<p>Beautiful sea hawksbill turtle swiming above colorful tropical coral reef polluted with plastic bag<br></p>
<p>Lyme Bay seabed</p>
<p>Getty image 1183696033. Fishing net caught on coral reef underwater. Research Festival 2021.&nbsp;Engineering solutions for marine plastic pollution.</p>

4. Lead a decade of global ocean action

G7 states are uniquely placed to champion the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and create the conditions needed to drive a decade of global action. 

As major economies, the G7 has unparalleled resources and responsibility to provide leadership, coordinating capacity, and financial support to deliver the joined-up science, governance and finance we need for a healthy, productive, resilient ocean that benefits and inspires humankind.

5. Prioritise nature-based solutions, and
6. Close the gaps in ocean governance and finance

Policy, financing and research need to be integrated to support the recovery of nature on land, in fresh water and in the neglected ocean. This includes addressing inequities and imbalances to support scientists in the Global South, plus addressing the blind spots for nature in global economics. 

We need global reform of fisheries management, effective treaties and protections of the high seas, and ultimately to ensure that the growing Blue Economy improves ocean health and prevents harm to it.

7. Advance ocean education

Most ministers and G7 political leaders are not trained scientists, and so they ask for help from organisations like IPSO. I work with IPSO as my students and colleagues want to help build a more ocean-friendly society.

I am hopeful that many of our future scientists, graduating from a spectrum of marine courses, will go on to inform decision-makers, businesses and citizens on the important links between the ocean, climate change, biodiversity, and their immense value for human health and well-being. Some graduates will become inspiring teachers; I think a major step forward would be for the G7 to agree global standards for ocean literacy in schools and to fund an ocean literacy programme.

Our IPSO statement to ministers expanding on these seven asks has already been supported by 70 NGOs from around the world. 

As the G7 ministers enjoy all that Cornwall has to offer, let’s hope that the spectacular coastline, ocean views and refreshing sea air sharpen their minds to focus on solutions to stop harming our incredible Blue Planet.

COP26: Examining the evidence for global action 

The UN Climate Change Convention in 2021 – also known as COP26 – represented the largest coming together of world leaders to address climate change, and find real solutions. The race is truly on to slow climate change and protect our planet, improve global health and re-build post-pandemic economies through a green recovery.

For our part, it is more important than ever that researchers take a whole-systems approach in the search for solutions. We need to address local environmental priorities alongside national and international goals, if net-zero carbon and sustainable blue-green growth is to be achieved. Our researchers share how systems thinking through transdisciplinary research is key to providing evidence for global action ahead of COP26.

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<p>Plymouth Perspectives</p>