Experts at the World Ocean Summit highlighted cohesive and urgent action as an imperative to prevent irreversible damage to our oceans.

Marine specialists, policymakers and activists in attendance at the 9th World Ocean Summit agreed that the aspirational goals for healthy oceans are far from being met. However, due recognition was given to select industries and sectors that are pushing themselves and their associations to embrace the principles of a sustainable blue economy. Focusing on solutions and problem-solving, the Summit spotlighted the efforts being made by various stakeholders to innovatively preserve ocean welfare.

As one of the key levers of change identified at the previous year’s Summit, aquaculture joined five other industry tracks represented at the event—energy, fishing, plastics, shipping and tourism—to highlight a range of themes that can help deliver global ocean goals by 2030. The talks considered critical technologies that could harvest ocean energy potential, support aquaculture and preserve marine biodiversity, while identifying pollution and overfishing as concerning obstacles.

Speakers reiterated the need to keep temperatures below the 1.5° threshold, while placing responsibility on global leaders and instrumental players to develop cross-border policies to support the transition to a blue economy.

Evolving industries and practices

Fish farms continue to advance their efficiency metrics by incorporating aquaculture technologies into their operations to monitor and control production. Satellite communication and data supervision are examples of the sector being well positioned to enable economic opportunities along with gradual attainment of thriving marine ecosystems. Healthcare experts at the Summit considered the public health angle, debating the use of chemicals in fish farming, the requirement of storage infrastructure, and the awareness of good protein that should be prioritised in the coming years. Expensive fishery management and a lack of regulation to curb illegal fishing were among the issues discussed at the event, with many delegates urging strong political leadership as a response.

Surprising estimates of the energy potential of offshore wind farms and tidal power quickly became a trending topic. Scaling up was deemed a key opportunity in the field, with academic speakers communicating the possibility of digital data collection being a fundamental lever of progress. In considering the implementation of a coordinated approach, some solutions talked about in the space encouraged cooperation between ocean infrastructure building and fishing communities. Similarly, discussion on integrated design factoring in ocean health and the energy transition identified actionable and assistive tools.

Private sector entities bear the burden of mitigating plastic pollution in oceans. Changing the way plastics are made requires manufacturing to support circular use rather than linear disposal, while keeping carbon emissions at their lowest possible level. As regulation emerges to support tighter targets, incentive for systemic change will see the industry revolutionise its mechanisms. Localised and international collaboration will be useful, as accessible technologies such as smartphone apps will empower society at large to be part of this change.

As one of the most polluting industries in the world, shipping has long struggled with a comprehensive transition to green fuels. Pressure to apply more ambitious targets to the sector, such as the net-zero goal, is expected to accelerate a mass shift to more sustainable energy sources. Regulators also stepped up at the Summit to address their role in supporting the demand for green fuels. Options such as tariffs, cap-and-trade, and secure capital investment were deliberated as potential primary solutions.

With the easing of the pandemic, tourism is expected to skyrocket. Ensuring that the environmental gains seen over the past few years are maintained and enhanced, hospitality groups are convening to remodel their operating strategies to include biodiversity preservation, reef rehabilitation and marine conservation at their core. Working with local governments to establish inland infrastructure to protect oceans from land pollution, the tourism sector will see a great deal of shared planning in the near future.

oceans preservation: collaborating to achieve sustainable goals by 2030

Current and upcoming efforts to oceans sustainable goals

The European Union (EU) took the opportunity to emphasise its trade policies that are in place to develop awareness and appreciation of the benefits of healthy marine systems for human life.

The European Commission discussed a comprehensive plan developed in conjunction with the EU’s Green Deal to cut EU emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to the 1990 baseline, while achieving complete carbon neutrality by 2050.

COP27 was a hot topic at the Summit, with many asserting the need to hold the world to its marine commitments and enforce implementation during the 2022 event. Reflecting on COP26, speakers cited the trend of policymakers incorporating nature-based solutions in their actions to tackle ocean degradation.

The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) launched a new toolkit at the Summit to guide financial institutions in making decisions to fund safe and impactful investment instruments that support ocean ecosystems.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) discussed its Blue Sustainable Ocean Strategy (Blue SOS) to help it make considered and substantial investments in responsible coastal infrastructure, green maritime operations, and more.

Corporate giants such as Walmart presented a 2050 target to actively support and work with sustainable tuna fisheries.

oceans sustainable goals by 2030

Source: Ocean Economist