What is the aim of the World Ocean Review?
The World Ocean Review attempts, through strategies to be
implemented by policy-makers, individuals, businesses and institutions, to build
a bridge between the theory of
sustainability and its practical
application in science and policy-making.
What is the concept of « strong sustainability »?
Sustainability is somewhat imprecise but
basicaly it is using natural resources mindfully. Strong sustainability promotes
the idea that renewable natural assets, such as
fish stocks, can be exploited – but
only to an extent that allows them to fully regenerate. Non-regenerative
resources such as oil, with all their negative impacts, should therefore be
replaced with renewables. Strong sustainability also calls for the restoration
of depleted natural assets. This is dependent on the development of appropriate
What is meant by « ecosystem services »?
Ecosystem services are the benefits that
ecosystems can provide. The concept
has replaced in recent years the notion of
“natural capital”. In relation to the
marine environment, these
- Provisioning services :
fish stocks, shipping lanes, which
nature provides free of charge.
- Supporting services : primary production, which is
the most important through the accumulation of
biomass from phytoplankton through
- Regulating services : basic biological, chemical and
physical processes such as the absorption of
- Cultural services : tourism, but also traditions
associated with the sea.
Today, many of these services are at risk from pollution and climate change, but also from their overexploitation.
What is the human impact on marine coastal regions?
The physical destruction of coastal habitats is a consequence of development,
construction of embankments and discharge of
pollutants. As a result, wetlands, salt
meadows, sand and mudflats, coral reefs and
forests are particularly at risk. According
to the United Nations, about 2.8 billion people now live in coastal cities,
resulting in a high level of use and severe
pollution of coastal waters, which can lead to
algal blooms and oxygen depletion in
How to achieve more sustainable use of marine habitats?
A first step is to evaluate the current status of these habitats, before
targeted measures to improve them can be implemented through methods, which
include environmental factors such as
biodiversity, but also
socio-economic criteria, as this is the case for the global Ocean Health Index
(OHI) or, in Europe, the targets defined in the
Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
It is then up to all stakeholders,
including policy-makers to act. However, currently, the multitude of relevant
institutions only act on their specific sector, and they should be coordinated
in an integrated approach.
Why are there only few examples of genuinely well-functioning regional ocean governance?
This can be due to both the sheer number of agreements, the problems caused by
vested interests and corruption and, not least, the lack of cooperation among
the countries concerned. Efforts to protect the
marine environment along Africa’s
Atlantic coast between Mauritania and South
Africa, for example, were abandoned shortly after the Abidjan Convention, which
entered into force in 1984.
What makes difficult to develop and implement programmes for the more sustainable management of the marine environment?
The distinction currently made between the sovereign territorial sea, the
exclusive economic zone, in which a coastal state has exclusive rights to
exploit the natural resources and fish
stocks, and the high seas (international waters) makes it difficult the
establishment of protected areas in international waters in the law of the sea.
The high seas is thus poorly regulated and offers a multitude of freedoms with
few restrictions, with every state having a right of access.
Some coastal states have established protected areas in their national waters,
but no such arrangements currently exist to protect an international sea area
from top to bottom.
Are there examples of well-functioning ocean governance?
There are indeed well-functioning ocean
governance such as the system of Port
State Control (PSC), which monitors compliance with specific UN conventions. It
allows national port authorities to detain a ship if it fails to comply with the
provisions of the relevant international conventions.
The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) decision to impose more
stringent limits on exhaust gas from ships and the commercial whaling moratorium
of 1986 are other positive examples.
How was the fishing exploitation regulated in Europe?
With the European Union’s new Common
Fisheries Policy (CFP), fishing in the EU
will be based on maximum sustainable yield
(MSY). The MSY is the maximum catch that can be taken from a species’ stock over
an indefinite period without jeopardizing that stock’s productivity. The aim is
to regulate fishing in a way, which allows fish
stocks to recover, enabling them to be fished at an optimal level in
the future. Although discussions on how the new fisheries policy should be
implemented day-to-day are still ongoing, a start has been made.
How, in practice, protect more effectively the marine environment?
A well-informed public that has a good understanding of the
marine environment can exert the
necessary pressure to bring about policy changes and a better coordination
between its conservation and its diverse economic or other uses. This
capacity building is now enshrined
in the United Nations’ new Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs), a global
sustainability agenda for the years up
to 2030 with marine conservation, is for the first time, a key global goal.
What role do scientists play in this matter?
In many cases, scientists can already make recommendations on how the
marine environment can be better
protected and used more sustainably.
Nonetheless, there are still too many vested interests, especially in the
economic sphere, and short-sighted, short-term profit maximization often takes
priority. Furthermore, the political structures in many coastal states are still
too inefficient to protect these states’ own marine resources and thus safeguard
a sustainable future for our oceans.