Ocean Action Hub

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Oceans of fortune, oceans of peril
On Africa’s west coast the ocean is hearth and home, but climate changes are resulting in rising sea levels, degraded fish stocks, coastal degradation and more.
In the run up to the Ocean Conference in June, UNDP's blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, Life below water.

27 Apr 2017 - On Africa’s West Coast, the ocean is everything. For thousands of years, its bounty has provided food for families, employment for fisher folk, remarkable sunsets that attract tourists, ports that carry goods and build economic resilience, and coastal barriers that buffer the earth, cleanse the ocean and create a more sustainable ecosystem. The ocean is hearth and home. But changes in the climate are resulting in rising sea levels, degraded fish stocks, coastal degradation, and more. Making this both an ocean of fortune and an ocean of peril. 

The west coast of Africa represents a major source of revenues for its communities. In some countries, like Senegal, 66 percent of the population live in coastal areas. In addition, due to high population growth and the decreased productivity of agricultural lands in coastal zones – caused more particularly by an increased salinization of the soils – coastal communities are under ever-greater pressure and increasingly dependent on ocean resources for their survival.

This results in intensive unsustainable fishing close to the coastal zones where fish reproduce, as well as sand displacement resulting from the ever-growing fleets of fishing boats that land on the shore. Mangrove and other natural buffers are cut down for firewood, and the construction sector mines the sand to build new houses for a growing population.

In addition to the unsustainable human-induced pressures depleting these resources (especially fish populations), climate change is putting an additional stress on livelihoods in coastal communities.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is witnessing unprecedented rates of erosion on its 40-km sliver of coast, where 15 metres of coastline has already been lost over the past 10 years.

In certain areas, large colonial homes are slipping into the sea. Erosion here happens due to the low topography of the coastal area, the gritty nature of the rock, but most importantly the increased impact of sea level rise. This erosion means infrastructure and valuable assets can be wiped out, and salt water can intrude on agricultural lands, cutting economic productivity for this least developed country.

On my last mission to DRC, a local villager from the coastal town of Nsiamfumu, Muanda, underlined the true impact rising seas and coastal degradation are having on the community. “Our ancestors brought us in coastal areas to exploit the resources the ocean offers, but with the increasing impacts of climate change and the threats it poses on our families and our livelihoods, we are forced to retreat inland and leave our ancestor’s lands.” These modern-day climate refuges will strain national resources and face new perils on their inland journey.

Among the various projects UNDP supports to address the challenges posed by climate change in Africa’s coastal areas, the Strengthening Resilience of Muanda’s communities from coastal erosion in the Democratic Republic of Congo project is providing a comprehensive and sustainable approach to support vulnerable communities in their efforts to adapt to climate change. Financed through the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund (GEF-LDCF) with US$5.3 million in grant funding, the project will be a centrepiece in the nation’s efforts to protect its coast. By collecting climate data and translating it into usable and understandable information, the project will enable decision-makers to plan and budget for climate change and provide communities with the necessary climate information and early warnings they need to prepare in case of extreme weather.

Local communities will be directly supported by investments in coastal defence, including the introduction of pilot adaptation measures to stabilize the cliffs at Muanda and secure fisherman docking and landing operations at Nsiamfumu. In addition, the project will create alternative income-generating activities for women and youth organizations to reduce pressure on coastal resources and uplift the economic status of these at-risk groups.

In the end, the ocean always abides. Whether it is an ocean of fortune, that protects and nurtures the vulnerable people of DRC, or an ocean of peril, where rising tides force migration, perpetuate poverty traps and diminish stability-building efforts, remains to be seen. But with sustained support, and active engagement with at-risk coastal communities, the chances of building an ocean of fortune remain high.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2017/4/26/Oceans-of-fortun...

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In Belize, local stewardship key to marine conservation

24 Apr 2017 - UNDP OCEAN BLOG SERIES - Local communities are at the forefront of marine resources management.

24 Apr 2017In the run up to the Ocean Conference in June, this blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, “Life below water”.

The reef was in plain sight, a majestic view with sandy white beaches surrounding cayes with magnificent frigate birds and booby birds flying overhead at Halfmoon Caye Natural Monument. I was eager to put on my diving gear and see the wonders of the 186-mile-long Belize Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Colorful coral reefs, whale sharks, turtles, and hundreds of cubera snappers aggregating three days before full moon at the Gladden Spit Spawning Aggregation Site in Belize.  It was May 2002, and I was participating along with a research team to collect data on Nassau Grouper abundance and distribution which would inform the declaration of eleven Nassau Grouper Spawning Aggregation Sites.

Our ocean is rich in biodiversity and is a crucial carbon sink. Coastal wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs support a diverse array of marine life. According to a recent economic study of the Belize Barrier Reef, the estimated services derived for tourism and livelihoods is US$559 million per year with a population of 380,010 people. A healthy reef ensures healthy people and a resilient country.

Two decades ago, fisherfolk were adamantly opposed to the designation of marine protected areas. However, the tide is shifting to a more inclusive and participatory co-management approach where communities are empowered to protect, conserve and utilize the seascape resources in a sustainable manner in partnership with regulatory government agencies (Forest and Fisheries Departments).

The protected landscape and seascape in Belize continue to evolve with 103 legally established and recognized protected areas. Local communities and indigenous peoples have protected important forests and marine ecosystems which are not fully recognized and supported. Through the new Global Support Initiative, biodiversity conservation, livelihoods and recognition for community-driven stewardship of resources will be supported. Local communities are at the forefront of marine resources management and as such, an innovative model for community engagement in conservation and shared governance of world heritage, was documented with support from UNDP.

A ridge to reef strategy and strategic financing is necessary to ameliorate anthropogenic threats emanating from the ridges and their impacts on the fragile reef ecosystems.  Sustainable Development Goal 14 calls for the sustainable use of ocean resources. Civil Society Organizations are experimenting and innovating by employing restorative actions as demonstrated by Fragments of Hope, a community based organization located on the Placencia Peninsula and whose focus is the restoration of coral reef habitats and advocacy for the sustainable management of associated habitats.

The voice of the resource users is crucial at all levels. The ocean provides more than environmental and economic benefits; it is our local, national and global heritage which we are entrusted as guardians and community stewards.

It is crucial to supporting the replication, upscaling and mainstreaming of sustainable fishing approaches such as: managed access, empowering a robust civil society network, and supporting seascape level collaboration and partnerships. A recent declaration of Belize's largest and most biodiverse marine protected area, is a testament of strategic stewardship. These innovative actions are some of nature`s best kept secret contributing to sustainable development outcomes.  

The ocean conference in June 2017 is a unique platform to challenge actors globally to address issues of sustainable fisheries, unsustainable tourism, acidification, pollution of our ocean, climate related impacts, and provide financing for ocean protection efforts towards shifting the tides.

How do you think we can continue safeguarding of vital ocean resources? Register for Voluntary Commitment for Implementation of Goal 14.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2017/4/21/In-Belize-local-...

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Treasure or tragedy – our ocean commons
24 Mar 2017 - [UNDP Oceans Blog] The oceans sustain creatures we haven’t even discovered, but they also keep terrestrial life going.

In the run up to the Ocean Conference in June, this UNDP Oceans blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, “Life below water”.

24 Mar 2017 - Midori Paxton, Head of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, UNDP - Bunaken National Marine Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2011.  

The sea was a bit too choppy for my liking. But there was a volcano erupting inland. The sea looked like a safer option! I took the plunge and jumped off the boat with my snorkel and fins.

Around me was a new world. So serene, so many layers. Wonderfully coloured fish clustered around corals, sea turtles flapped by, and there was a darkness beneath a canyon wall that told of depths beyond the reach of sunlight. Down there, I knew, were coelacanths. Once believed to have gone extinct 66 million years ago, these fish have in fact out-lived the dinosaurs.         

If aliens arrived from outer space, they wouldn’t call our planet Earth.  They would call it planet Sea. Seventy-one percent of our planet’s surface is covered in water. The depths are profound.  Just imagine having the whole Himalayan or Andean mountain range upside down beneath the ocean face. That is just a taster.

The oceans sustain creatures we haven’t even discovered, but they also keep terrestrial life going. More than 3 billion people depend on them as their primary source of protein. Shipping lanes keep commerce thriving and the water regulates the temperature and atmosphere.

Coastal regions – mangroves, tidal flats, etc. – are often referred to as nurseries for fish. But they are also the cradle of humanity. We abuse them at our own cost.  This is exactly what the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize.

SDG 14 aims to conserve at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are the safety net for this vast treasure contained in areas far bigger than all the continents put together.  Indeed, the IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2016 passed a motion to protect 30 percent of oceans by 2030.

MPA expansion is imperative for biodiversity and ecosystem health. It is also essential for social welfare and the economy. A 2015 study  concluded that the economic rate of return on money invested in expanding MPA networkss is as high as 24 percent. UNDP currently has around 40 MPA projects in 37 countries, and we’ve seen clear evidence for the linkage between marine biodiversity conservation and social and economic benefits.

On the eastern coast of India, a project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) established an active community-based eco-tourism programme, unleashing the potential of the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, with benefits for biodiversity and local communities. It helped build 4-km long (!) raised wooden walkway that enables visitors to enjoy guided walks through the biodiverse mangrove forests. A portion of the fees is paid into a Community Fund used to address agreed local development needs.  Women and men are trained in alternative livelihood activities such as  tailoring, coir making and the production of handicrafts. Women’s self-help groups are supported, and many tourist accommodations are run by women.

In Maldives, our GEF financed project supported an increase in MPAs in Baa Atoll. This biodiversity-based activity now represents 47 percent of employment and 51 percent of business earnings for the Baa Atoll local population.

Conservation of coral reefs protects the coastline from waves and storms, limiting coastal erosion and saving millions of dollars in potential damage. The establishment of Maldives’ whole territory as a biosphere reserve should help maintain 89 percent of GDP and 98 percent of exports directly depending on coastal and marine biodiversity.

Progress towards meeting SDG target 14.5 on MPA is slow. So far only less than 4 percent of the world’s oceans are protected, mostly in areas under national jurisdiction. Given that the marine areas beyond national jurisdiction account for nearly 95 percent of oceanic water volume, the areas under protection are not even the tip of this iceberg

If all of the currently proposed MPAs are established as planned, the total MPA area would reach 6.4 percent of the ocean. This is good but not nearly sufficient. If you have an important self-regenerating asset, would you keep such a small percentage and spend the rest?

Oceans are a common treasure without physical boundaries. Treasure has always attracted pirates. We need more guardians – MPAs – against piracy in areas within and beyond national jurisdictions. After all, the seas are our life.

I emerged from the Sulawesi sea and Mt Lokon was still belching out smoke.  Beneath me the fish were thriving. Because they were protected! CONTINUE READING HERE: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2017/3/23/Treasure-or-tragedy-our-ocean-commons.html

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BETTER THAN GOLD - Linking Biodiversity Conservation & Sustainable Tourism in Papua New Guinea

Kimbe Bay in Papua New Guinea’s island of New Britain holds an almost mythical status amongst divers.

The lush and picturesque ecosystem is home to more than 900 species of fish – and more than half the world’s species of hard coral. Under its calm blue waters, unique mountain-like ‘peaks’ of coral are interspersed with World War II wreckage. These are features that draw dedicated divers from around the globe, along with many who are also attracted by the island’s birds and unique rain forests.


Although visitor numbers are increasing, tourism remains a niche market in this difficult-to access part of the country, fewer than 50,000 visitors come to PNG each year for leisure, a figure which has tripled since 2002. Tourism is currently a relatively minor contributor to the overall economy, but the nation is endowed with a great many potential tourist hot-spots, with its unparalleled diving, unique flora and fauna, WWII history, hikes, distinct cultures, and even surfing destinations.

Like the residents in Kimbe, many within the country, where almost 40 percent of people live on less than US$ 1.90 per day, now see the potential for sustainable tourism as a viable means of poverty alleviation without reliance on extractive industries or palm oil plantations.

"This country is very suited to niche market tourism," says Cecileie Catherine Benjamin, who runs Walindi Plantation Resort, which caters mainly to divers and bird-watching tourists.

"The main tourist attraction is the massive biodiversity of birds, plants, fish, reefs and coral. Although large-scale mass tourism may threaten the delicate eco-systems here, and so needs to be controlled and managed, our resort alone provides employment for more than 75 families, as well as livelihoods for more than 50 resource owner groups."


Benjamin is one of many in New Britain who realise the potential of using tourism as a source of sustainable livelihoods. Another supporter is local activist and community leader Peter Kikele.

His village of Tavolo is enthusiastic about tourism. With funding provided by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), through the United National Development Programme (UNDP)-supported project, Community-based Forest and Coastal Conservation and Resource Management in PNG, they have built a small guesthouse to capitalise on increased visitor numbers.

“The logging companies… take away the forests that villagers depend upon for food and livelihoods - and they promise economic development that never comes. Small scale village tourism schemes, such as guest houses and guided trips offer a sustainable way to both protect the forest and marine resources, as well as generate an income that can bolster local health and education services.”

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Ocean Acidification: Summary for Policymakers – Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World

Presents a summary of the state of knowledge on ocean acidification based on the latest research presented at the symposium and beyond.

Presents a summary of the state of knowledge on ocean acidification based on the latest research presented at the symposium and beyond.

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Marine Protected Areas: Country case studies on policy, governance and institutional issues

This Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper presents case studies of the policy, governance and institutional issues of marine protected areas (MPAs) in Japan, Mauritania, the Philippines and Sa


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Case Studies: From Ridge to Reef

Implementing coral reef conservation and management through a community-based approach emphasizing land-sea connectivity. This report presents an overview of eight projects, their main achievements

to date, and lessons learnt.

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Preparatory Meeting: Registration closed

The President of the United Nations General Assembly H.E.

Mr Peter Thomson wrote to representatives of NGOs, Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders to encourage participation in The Ocean Conference in June 2017 in New York. In particular, his letter contained a reminder to register to participate in the Preparatory Meeting on 15-16 February, also in New York. The registration deadline is 22 January 2017 and registration is online here: http://bit.ly/SDG14ConfPrep_Reg

Read the GA President's letter in full > 

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Ocean Conservation Series Coming to Animal Planet - New York Times

13 November 2016 - Robert Redford and Paul Allen are the executive producers of a new Animal Planet series on ocean conservati

13 November 2016 - Robert Redford and Paul Allen are the executive producers of a new Animal Planet series on ocean conservation. Entitled “Ocean Warriors,” the series traces activists, journalists and scientists working to fight poachers and organized crime in oceans across the globe.

“Ocean Warriors” will have its premiere on Dec. 4, and aims to reveal the crime and violence that often go unpunished in international waters. Footage includes the Swedish boat captain Peter Hammarstedt chasing icefish poachers off the coast of West Africa; the photographer Paul Hilton embarking on a campaign to save the Pacific shark population; and the conservation biologist Mike Markovina working to save coral reefs from blast fishing in Tanzania.

“The challenge of restoring ocean health has never been more urgent,” Mr. Allen said in a statement. “Our oceans are complex living systems that help feed millions, mitigate climate change and even yield lifesaving medicines.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com