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Subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing should be withdrawn.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.