Fourteen Countries, Oregon State Work to Save the Oceans

 “The ocean is neither too big to fail not too big to fix,” Oregon State University’s Dr. Jane Lubchenco said to OSU Newsroom, but it is too big and too central to our future to ignore. 

Norway, Palau, Portugal, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, Chile, Mexico, Jamaica, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Fiji and Australia might seem to be an unlikely group of nations to work a major change in how the human race makes use of the world’s oceans. Between them, though, those 14 countries have 40% of the world’s coastlines, 30% of all Exclusive Economic Zones, 20% of all ocean fisheries, and 20% of maritime shipping. Their territorial waters add up to a sea as large as Africa.  

By comparison, the U.S. has 12% of the world’s coastlines, 8% of EEZs, 3% of fisheries, and 0.7% of shipping – the last number so small because few shippers choose to conform to U.S. shipping regulations.  

So, when those 14 countries announced they were going in together on a plan to create a completely sustainable management plan for the seas under their control by 2025, it was kind of a big deal. 

It’s a big deal in Oregon, not just because Oregon has a busy and productive seacoast, and not just because we’re part of a country with important fishing industries and which imports and exports immense amounts by sea, but also because the plan they’re acting upon was written by a group of experts co-chaired by Dr. Lubchenco, a Marine Ecologist at OSU. 

“Fourteen serving world leaders asked for a series of reports on food from the sea, climate change, the ocean genome, illegal fishing, biodiversity, finance, equity, data and technology, ocean accounting, pollution, marine spatial planning, ocean energy and more,” Lubchenco said. “It is exciting and gratifying to see presidents and prime ministers ask for, listen to and follow scientific guidance. 

Kirsten Grorud-Colvert, another researcher in the OSU College of Science, was a lead author of a paper on the ocean genome that was published in Nature on Dec. 3, and appears on Nature’s website in a collection of ocean papers. 

“The work of Grorud-Colvert and OSU’s Jenna Sullivan-Stack features prominently in the Ocean Solutions Report and the Ocean Panel final commitments,” Lubchenco said. “Their work on marine protected areas strongly influenced the Ocean Panel’s call for fully protecting 30% of the global ocean by 2030.” 

“This is the result of nearly three years of work and represents a remarkable example of knowledge informing policy and action,” Lubchenco said. The Distinguished Professor of the OSU College of Science was commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. “The countries on the Ocean Panel are listening to science, learning from each other and working together. That’s a powerful combination. 

“Phase 1 of the panel’s work was knowledge production. Phase 2 is policy and action, and that phase launches now. We can use the ocean wisely, rather than using it up, but only if we get serious about doing so. These documents point the way.”  

A Worldwide Effort  

Lubchenco, Co-Chair with oceanographer Peter Haugan of the University of Bergen, Norway, and Indonesian economist Mari Elka Pangestu working as Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships in the World Bank, co-ordinated over 250 experts from 48 countries in the production of 19 peer-reviewed papers, as well as an Ocean Solutions Report to the Ocean Panel. The three co-chairs shared authorship of a paper published in the scientific journal Nature. 

The Ocean Panel calls on every other country with a sea coast to join the 14 countries in committing to sustainable management of all Exclusive Economic Zones by 2030. The panel predicts humanity could receive six times more food from the ocean and 40 times as much renewable energy, all without harming the seas. This would end poverty for millions and provide one fifth of all global greenhouse gas emission reductions that are estimated to be needed by 2050 to keep global warming below 1.5° Celsius, as provided for for in the 2016 Paris Agreement. 

 “The ocean holds untapped potential to provide real solutions to urgent global problems from climate change and food security to biodiversity loss and inequality,” Lubchenco said. “If the Ocean Panel’s historic commitments to action are implemented, the resulting successes will swell into a wave of smart actions by other key players – enabling people, nature and the economy to thrive.”  

By: John M. Burt