Clean Oceans and a Blue economy- a pathway for Sustainable ocean management

Clean Oceans

Marine litter is a growing concern impacting the health of our oceans. Traditionally anthropogenic activities have been responsible for coastal water and sea pollution. Oceans have become the largest dumping ground accepting millions of tonnes of disposed plastic waste every year. Popularly discussed estimates account for close to 8 million metric tonnes of plastic entering our oceans each year on top of the estimated 150 million metric tonnes that has already been deposited in the ocean beds1. This litter is dominated by single use plastics which are not collected and recycled because of their low value.

There has been a global dialogue around the urgent need to minimize and prevent marine litter which also aligns with the sub goals of SDG 14 (Life below water) and sub goals SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production). Although at a regional level, investing in sustainable recycling and waste management systems may be the way to overcome marine litter, building global partnerships would definitely help countries to accelerate implementation of solutions to overcome this manmade crisis.

The plenary session would further aim to deliberate on the global response to marine plastic pollution and potential solutions around addressing it. Discussions would include but not limited to

  • Aligning international policy and advisories to curb plastic leakage into water bodies.
  • Enhancing implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) strategies to promote active participation from the Industry and spread awareness
  • Explore technologies to contain plastic debris from hotspots as ways to stop the litter from ending up into the ocean (land-based solutions) or cleaning of floating litter on ocean surface (ocean-based solutions) including measures to prevent abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) not limiting to sharing good practices on product design for easy collection and recycling.
  • Understanding the impact of Basel Convention’s regulation on exported plastic from January, 2021
  • Inclusion of regional marine debris monitoring programme.
  • Conduct awareness programmes to help organise clean-up campaigns like fishing the litter, fishing gears removing programmes, beach cleaning and waterways. Showcasing best management practices and encouraging all the stakeholders to be part of the solution. Promotion of value addition in recycling for utilization of marine litter.

Blue economy – pathway for sustainable ocean management

Several countries are focusing on harnessing the blue economy prospects in their country. Consistent efforts are being undertaken across the globe to enhance the sustainable practices in fisheries, shipping and tourism sectors. Additionally, new emerging sector such as deep sea mining, offshore energy, exploration for genetic marine resources are opening up new opportunities and challenges. Emerging sectors are opening avenues for research and development, increasing options for further data collection and analysis, necessity to increase multilateral collaboration in international waters and inducing sustainability in implementation strategies to reduce environmental degradation. Traditional sectors such as shipping are reinventing the wheel with stringent environmental measures including the use of low Sulphur fuels and ballast water management as prescribed by the International Maritime organization. Yet the existing environmental challenges in the oceans is exacerbating and creating roadblocks for old and new sectors in the ocean economy due to slow-paced implementation of measures.

Unsustainable fishing has led to reduction the maximum sustainable yield of various fish population, increasing anthropogenic activity is leading to temporal changes in oceans increasing acidification and eutrophication and affecting the survival of marine species and their migration patterns. Increasing land based pollution is accelerating the degradation of oceans. Warmer waters are increasing the presence of marine species such algae blooms and jelly fish that require limited oxygen and thrive in polluted waters. Increasing incidents of natural disasters, cyclones and typhoons is adding to the woes of coastal population across the globe.

Some key issues that could be further deliberated upon include-

  • How can emerging sectors overcome the problems and challenges faced by traditional sectors such as environmental degradation through sustainability measures? Lessons learnt and best practices that could be emulated.
  • Multilateral cooperation is required to develop new emerging sectors, as these transcend territorial waters and are being planned in high seas. What are the possible international mechanisms that can enhance cooperation to reduce environmental degradation and enhance economic growth for all countries?
  • Emerging sectors have significant potential for job creation. What kind of skill development initiatives will be required for these emerging sectors and how can India prepare its workforce for these sectors?
  • The new sectors have enhanced involvement of private players, how can they be mobilized to enhance ocean sustainability through community participation, financing and implementing environmentally friendly projects?
  • Key to progressing in blue economy is the capability to gather data and information. Countries such as India still need to enhance their scientific capabilities to access information from varied aspects affecting oceans – climate, oceanography, maritime movement, marine species migratory movements and inventory of marine species- plethora of information provides the power to make informed decisions and accurate choices. What are the possible way India can enhance its scientific and research capabilities to be a strong global player?