Overline: Ecosystems
Headline: Integrated Ocean Management to Balance the Use and Protection of Our Oceans

We rely on the ocean to meet our growing demand for foodstuffs, energy, and transport. At the same time, marine ecosystems are facing serious challenges from over-exploitation, pollution, climate change, and loss of biodiversity. In a new report prepared with the support of IASS researchers, the High Level Panel for the Sustainable Ocean Economy, an international initiative of heads of state and government, recommends concrete steps to strike a balance between the use and protection of the oceans.

Marine ecosystems are suffering from the loss of biodiversity
Marine ecosystems are suffering from the loss of biodiversity iStock/armiblue

The High Level Panel for the Sustainable Ocean Economy was established in September 2018 to develop solutions for a sustainable ocean economy. In the blue paper "Integrated Ocean Management", a team of authors including IASS Research Group Leader Sebastian Unger describes the opportunities that this approach presents. Integrated Ocean Management puts the ecosystem and knowledge at the centre of every decision-making process. By balancing the various human needs and ocean uses, it helps to safeguard the health of our ocean, while also providing opportunities for growth in the sustainable ocean economy. "Oceans will also play an important role in efforts to tackle the consequences of the coronavirus crisis. Integrated ocean management can serve as a kind of 'green-blue' model to ensure the sustainable use of marine resources and strengthen the resilience of ocean-dependent user groups," explains Sebastian Unger. 

The key messages of the report:

  1. Integrated Ocean Management should complement sector-based management

    Efforts to implement effective sectoral management of ocean-based human activities are necessary but are not sufficient alone. To strike the right balance between production and protection, and optimize the ocean economy as a whole, the holistic plans and overarching ecosystem-based approach offered by Integrated Ocean Management are needed. Integrated Ocean Management can also foster better integration among the different sectors of ocean business and ocean governance.
  2. Integrated Ocean Management should strengthen and advance existing governance frameworks

    The inadequate or inefficient implementation of existing domestic and international instruments is perhaps the most important weakness of our ocean governance systems. Important work is underway to further develop governance frameworks, including efforts to implement regulations for the governance of regional fisheries management organisations, negotiations on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction and the development of the seabed mining code by the International Seabed Authority (ISA).

    The effective implementation of international agreements in domestic legislation and practices – including states’ economic activities in the high seas – should be a leading principle. Rules for managing human activities in the high seas should be compatible with and at least as strict as those that apply in areas under national jurisdiction. The ratification of and adherence to the basic international instruments for ocean governance provided by the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is a precondition for this. Regional cooperation can be an effective vehicle for efforts to achieve this.
  3. Integrated Ocean Management can be applied anywhere

    The key to successful Integrated Ocean Management lies in tailoring measures to local contexts and ensuring the engagement of relevant stakeholders. While contexts can vary greatly, well-managed engagement and participation processes are crucial in all cases. These should consider consider the scientific, cultural, societal, economic and political contexts and encourage active stakeholder participation. National management plans need to be anchored in local communities. With these factors in place, however, Integrated Ocean Management can be applied in all parts of the world and at all governance levels.
  4. Integrated Ocean Management needs to be dynamic

    The ocean ecosystem is highly dynamic, and its governance needs to reflect this. This is further amplified by climate change, requiring future ocean management plans to take risks into account and be able to adjust in accordance with rapid developments. In this regard, our knowledge of the ocean and climate change, and how we utilize this knowledge, is key.

    The publication of this blue paper was accompanied by a webinar organized by the High Level Panel and featuring lead author Jan-Gunnar Winther (Centre for the Ocean and the Arctic, Norwegian Polar Institute) and Portugal's Minister of Maritime Affairs, Ricardo Serrao Santos. For more information see: https://www.wri.org/events/2020/05/webinar-integrated-ocean-management

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