Ocean Action Hub

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Protecting and conserving marine and coastal ecosystems in the Maldives

18 Sept 2018 - The Maldives is host to a globally significant coral reef ecosystem that provides vital services to the citizens and the internationally significant mega fauna such as whale

18 Sept 2018 - The Maldives is host to a globally significant coral reef ecosystem that provides vital services to the citizens and the internationally significant mega fauna such as whale sharks, rays and turtles.

The coral reef ecosystem is the seventh largest in the world with an area of 21,300 km2 and constitutes 3.14% of the world’s coral reefs.

Watch the video to learn more about how we continue our commitment to sustainably use and conserve our oceans.

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16 Sept 2018 - UNDP's Ahmed Shifaz writes about how plastic is drowning the ocean and beaches of Maldives and what we can do about it.


It’s amazing how accustomed we have gotten to the sight of our beaches covered in plastic trash. It’s as if we have accepted that’s the way things are and will be. In a world that is increasingly drowning in its own waste, some of the statistics around plastic are staggering. And most of it winds up in our oceans. 13 million tonnes of the stuff are thrown into the sea each year. That is equivalent to dumping one garbage truck load into the ocean every minute.

The Maldives imports everything, including plastic. Most often plastic comes into the country as a raw material to cater to Maldivian dependence on PET bottles. It also comes as packaging wrapped around the goods that we buy, and as single-use plastic bags.

And at the end of its use, it simply becomes waste and very little of it (if any) leaves the country. Worse still, they accumulate on our tiny islands. So much so that our islands’ topography now include growing hills made of PET bottles and assorted plastic. Without proper waste management practices most of this ends up in our ocean.

I remember going swimming with my father when I was a child. We’d swim and snorkel around the capital island Male’ and sometimes other islands. The waters around Male’ unlike other islands weren’t necessarily the most pristine, but there was one distinct difference between then and now: The amount of plastic floating around and tangled up on the house reefs.

Today, all of our lagoons and reefs are suffocating. This is posing real threats to marine animals and their ecosystems. Majestic sea animals such as turtles and whale sharks are being caught in discarded fishing nets. Entire reefs lie under ghostly layers of plastic bags. With much of our country made up of the ocean, plastic is an immediate threat to the reefs that sustain our economy and industry. So then the question all of us need to ask ourselves is, is this ok? Are we going to accept this simply as the way things are? The answer must be a resounding NO. We are at a unique point where we are able to recognize the harm that we are causing, as well as have the means to do something about it.

As the problem grows, cities and countries across the world are making bold decisions to ban single-use plastic such as shopping bags, cups and straws. In the Maldives, UNDP supported to build several waste management centers in Laamu Atoll, where communities have been equipped with waste management facilities, including plastic chippers. The aim is to reduce the plastic footprint on the islands, and help prevent things like plastic bottles being thrown into the sea.

Photo: Ashwa Faheem/UNDP Maldives 2017.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://undpmv.exposure.co/individual-action-collective-results

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When life gives you lionfish: Innovation in fighting invasive species in the Caribbean

13 Sept 2018 - The GEF - Seeing a lionfish while diving in the Caribbean is a cause for mixed emotions.  On the one hand, one marvels at the exquisite beauty of the fishes’ flowery fins an

13 Sept 2018 - The GEF - Seeing a lionfish while diving in the Caribbean is a cause for mixed emotions.  On the one hand, one marvels at the exquisite beauty of the fishes’ flowery fins and its amazing adaptability to a range of habitats, from shallow estuaries with low salinity to deep reef environments. But then you remember that these fish don’t belong in the Caribbean, and that the very versatility noted above makes them an invasive menace. Indeed, if the fish you are looking at is a female, she may be carrying up to 30,000 eggs, and may have thirty or more native fish or crustaceans in her stomach.

One of the many impacts of the Anthropocene era on global biodiversity is the increased spread of invasive species, like the lionfish, due to rapid globalization. With the United Nations Ocean Conference, the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources is high on the international agenda.  While long recognized as an environmental and biodiversity threat, invasive species also pose a threat to livelihoods, particularly in developing countries where incomes may be heavily dependent upon a single sector or product.

Traditionally, efforts to eradicate or control invasive species have been focused on public sector interventions.  But control efforts are often expensive and are either out of reach, or pose severe strains on limited budgets of developing countries.  Hence there has been growing attention to identification of market-based control approaches which create commercial incentives for removing the invaders, providing a financially sustainable means of control. 

Such approaches were highlighted during a recent GEF Expanded Constituency Workshop (ECW), in Grenada, which brought together GEF partners and stakeholders from sixteen countries from across the Caribbean region.  As a special part of the workshop, participants learned first-hand about innovative initiatives to control invasive lionfish, which are threatening marine ecosystems and livelihoods across the Wider Caribbean. 

Much has been written about the incursion of lionfish, which has been described as the “worst marine invasion ever”. In a nutshell, two species of lionfish, which are native to the Indo-Pacific have invaded marine ecosystems in large areas of the Western Atlantic, particularly the Wider Caribbean. First sighted in the late 1980’s, they have spread throughout the region. They have no natural predators in the Caribbean and are able to reproduce as frequently as every four days with each female producing up to 2 million eggs per year.  Their population densities can reach levels more than 10 times those found in their native range.  They are known to prey on more than 100 species of fish and crustaceans including several that are commercially or ecologically important.

Scientists and marine conservationists agree that the only way to control the lionfish invasion is human intervention - basically removing as many as possible.  Indeed, there is growing evidence that if lionfish populations can be kept at low levels, native fish populations recover rapidly.  But due to the high reproductive rate of lionfish and the dispersal of eggs and larvae via marine currents, removals need to be undertaken regularly. Making the removal programs financially sustainable poses a unique challenge that requires innovative approaches and partnerships, bringing together the public, private, and civil society sectors.  GEF has supported such innovations in several countries.  These have ranged from support to environmental protection and fisheries authorities on incorporation of lionfish control into their marine ecosystem management strategies, to support for development of markets for lionfish products.

The good news is that lionfish are delicious (as attested by participants at the Grenada workshop, who had a chance to sample lionfish kebabs).  As such, the development of a commercial lionfish fishery is seen as the most effective market-focused control strategy.  The bad news is that lionfish can’t be harvested using standard large-scale fishing gear such as nets or lines. They either have to be hand-speared or hand-netted, which is very labor intensive and expensive. So, there is a need to somehow create additional incentives for removals. It is also necessary to create demand, as lionfish aren’t well known to consumers or restaurateurs.  

GEF-supported initiatives in Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Belize have supported training of fishers on safe handling of lionfish, consumer education, and awareness raising among chefs and restaurants, and GEF Small Grants Program projects in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines include eco-tourism components, enlisting divers to participate in lionfish hunts. 

A particularly innovative initiative, also highlighted in Grenada, is the development of markets for lionfish jewelry.  This jewelry, made from parts of the fish that were otherwise discarded, not only raises landed value per fish creating additional incentive for removals, but also creates new income and empowerment opportunities for women in coastal communities that are negatively impacted by the invasion.  Lionfish jewelry initiatives have been supported directly by GEF Small Grants in Grenada and St. Vincent and Grenadines, and indirectly by a GEF project in Belize, where a vibrant association of lionfish jewelry artists has been established, comprised of women from coastal communities across the country. 

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.thegef.org/blog/when-life-gives-you-lionfish-innovation-fighting-invasive-species-caribbean

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Solving Freetown's Waste Problem
23 Aug 2018 - Bashiru Brima makes bags, mats and hats out of plastic refuse, while teaching his community in Sierre Leone to reclaim waste.
23 Aug 2018 - Bashiru Brima, 21, is not your regular tailor. Living in the slum community of Cockle Bay, in Sierra Leone's capital city, he has been fashioning bags, mats and hats out of plastic refuse, while educating his fellow villagers to reclaim waste rather than let it pile up.

Plastic waste is a major problem in the slums bordering Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city. Water sachets (commonly used as drinking containers in the country), empty bottles and jerrycans litter the streets and clog up drains, causing flooding in disaster-prone areas.

Sierra Leone is among the top most vulnerable countries to climate change, and with an average rainfall of 3,600 litres (the equivalent of about 18 bathtubs) per square metre per year, flooding affects the country on a recurrent basis.

The devastating flash flooding and landslide that killed thousands in Freetown in August 2017 illustrates how the accumulation of plastics in drainage systems, compounded by poor city planning, exacerbates the problem. Last year’s flooding displaced 5,000 slum dwellers in Freetown alone and caused significant financial losses.

Plastic waste also poses public health issues, as blocked drainage causes water to stagnate and mosquitoes to breed in a region where malaria is endemic. In times of floods, water contaminated by mud and waste is washed into open drinking water wells and can lead to disease.


There is no waste transfer center in Freetown, nowhere to sort garbage and separate what can be used for compost or recycling.

It costs 2,000 Leones to dispose of a rice bag of garbage, says UNDP’s Thorsten Kallnischkies, Geologist and Waste Management Expert.

Kallnischkies, who has worked on almost 200 dumpsites around the world, says recycling and removing garbage from the cities' overflowing drains saves people's money, while also tackling youth unemployment.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://stories.undp.org/solving-freetowns-waste-problem

PHOTO © Lilah Gaafar

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Here's How Your Contact Lenses May Be Polluting the Ocean

20 Aug 2018 - New research suggests that millions of contact lenses may be ending up in U.S. water supplies each year, contributing to ocean pollution.

20 Aug 2018 - New research suggests that millions of contact lenses may be ending up in U.S. water supplies each year, contributing to ocean pollution.

“If you think of plastic pollution, contact lenses are not the first thing that come to mind,” says Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University. But given the estimated 45 million wearers of contact lenses in the U.S. alone, Halden and postdoctoral student Charlie Rolsky got to thinking: how many millions of people are disposing of these plastics improperly?

The two conducted a survey of about 400 contact wearers and found that roughly 15 to 20% had flushed contacts down a toilet or sink drain at some point. That result suggests that a significant number of lenses are ending up in waste-water treatment plants — a conclusion they confirmed after visiting treatment plants and spying lenses in the water. The results were presented Sunday at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

“We were concerned with what happens to those contact lenses once they’re exposed to the processes in the waste water treatment plant,” Rolsky says.

After analyzing various stages of the process, they found that lenses degraded somewhat during waste-water treatment but did not break down entirely, meaning that small fragments of plastic are being flushed out into the water supplies, potentially endangering marine life.

“From past studies, we know that microplastics are able to absorb contaminants at a much higher level than what’s found in the surrounding environment,” Rolsky says. “That presents threats to that particular organism and anything that feeds on it” — including humans, further up the food chain.

It’s important to keep the findings in perspective; Halden points out that contacts make up a “very, very small fraction” of the plastics that ultimately wind up in the ocean, and serve a far more useful purpose than “frivolous” plastics like single-use bags and straws. Still, the researchers say contact users should be diligent about disposing of their lenses properly, and that manufacturers should make it easier to recycle their products.

“If you use them, just make sure you put them into the solid waste, and not have them enter the sink or toilet,” Halden says. “There’s a lot of plastic still going from our population into the environment, into the ocean, and it ultimately comes back to us and can harm us. Everyone should have an incentive to avoid plastic pollution.”

CONTINUE READING: http://time.com/5369835/contact-lens-ocean-pollution/

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Why sea level rise varies from place to place

15 Aug 2018 - Multiple, overlapping factors can mean big differences in flood risk.

15 Aug 2018 - In the 20th century, ocean levels rose by a global average of about 14 centimeters, mainly due to melting ice and warming waters. Some coastal areas saw more sea level rise than others. Here’s why: 

Expanding seawater

As water heats up, its molecules take up more space, contributing to global sea level rise. Local weather systems can influence that effect. In 2017 scientists reported in Geophysical Research Letters that weakening monsoon winds have resulted in hotter surface ocean temperatures in the northern Indian Ocean, causing local sea level rise. Those weaker winds curtailed ocean circulation that normally brings cooler water up from the deep. Surface waters in the Arabian Sea, for example, got warmer than usual and expanded, raising sea levels near the island nation of Maldives at a slightly faster rate than the global average.

Glacial rebound

Heavy ice sheets covered much of the Northern Hemisphere about 20,000 years ago. Regions once compressed beneath the weight of all that ice, such as the northeastern United States, have been slowly rebounding. In those areas, sea levels appear to be rising more slowly, because the land is rising as well.

But regions that once lay at the edges of the ice sheets, such as the Chesapeake Bay region, are now sinking as part of that ongoing postglacial shift. That’s because the weight of the ice squeezed some underlying rock in the mantle and caused the surface of the land to bulge, much like the bulging of a water bed when a person sits on it. Now, with the ice gone, the bulge is sinking — accelerating the impacts of sea level rise on the communities that sit atop it.

Sinking land

Tectonic activity such as the 2004 magnitude-9.1 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake (SN: 8/27/05, p. 136may tilt the land and alter relative sea level rise, as it did in the Gulf of Thailand. And human activities, such as extracting groundwater or fossil fuels, can also cause land to sink.

Earth's rotation

The planet’s rotation deflects fluids in motion, causing ocean water to swirl counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. As water moves around coastlines, this Coriolis effect can cause bulges of higher water in some areas and troughs in others. Output from rivers can exacerbate this effect, scientists reported in the July 24 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As rivers flow into the ocean, the water gets pushed by the swirling currents to one side, causing water levels to rise higher there than on the side behind the current.

Melting ice sheets

Massive glaciers exert a gravitational pull on nearby coastal waters and cause them to rise higher than they otherwise would. When glaciers melt, their mass redistributes, weakening their gravitational pull and causing the nearby water levels to drop. The melting ice in Antarctica, for example, causes more sea level rise on faraway New York than on the closer beaches of Sydney, scientists reported in 2017 in Science Advances.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/why-sea-level-rise-varies-place-place

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We are all “sailing the waves on our own” now

10 Aug 2018 - Indigenous peoples disproportionately face the brunt of climate change, which is fast becoming a leading driver of human displacement.

10 Aug 2018 - The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples this year has a focus on migration and displacement. Indigenous peoples, who comprise less than 5 percent of the world’s population, have the world’s smallest carbon footprint, and are the least responsible for our climate crisis. Yet because their livelihoods and wellbeing are intimately bound with intact ecosystems, indigenous peoples disproportionately face the brunt of climate change, which is fast becoming a leading driver of human displacement.

In Papua New Guinea, for example, residents of the Carteret Islands – some of the most densely populated islands in the country – have felt the effects of climate change intensify over recent years. With a high point on their islands of just 1.2 metres above sea level, every community member is now at risk from sea level rise and storm surges. Moreover, the community depends almost entirely on fishing for their food and livelihoods, but the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs has gradually deteriorated from warming waters and coral bleaching.

The residents of these islands faced a stark choice – to be passive victims of an uncertain government resettlement programme, or to take matters into their own hands. They chose the latter. In 2005, elders formed a community-led non-profit, called Tulele Peisa, to chart their own climate course. In the Halia language, the name means “Sailing the Waves on Our Own,” an apt metaphor for how the community is navigating rising sea levels. In 2014, the initiative won the prestigious, UNDP-led Equator Prize, in recognition for its ingenuity, foresight and proactive approach in facing the challenges of climate change, while keeping their cultural traditions intact.

Earlier this month, Jeffrey Sachs published an article entitled “We Are All Climate Refugees Now,” in which he attributed the main cause of climate inaction to the willful ignorance of political institutions and corporations toward the grave dangers of climate change, imperilling future life on Earth. 2018 will likely be among the hottest years humanity has ever recorded. Yet a slew of recent articles highlight that we are not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. We have not shown the collective leadership required to tackle this existential crisis.

Carteret Islanders have been broadly recognized as the world’s first climate refugees, but they are not alone. Arctic indigenous communities are already facing the same plight, as are their regional neighbours from the island nation of Kiribati. According to the World Bank, their plight will likely be replicated around the world, with as many as 140 million people worldwide being displaced by climate change within the next 30 years or so.

But the Carteret Island leaders are more than just climate refugees. They have done something precious few political leaders have done to date – they recognized the warning signs of climate change as real and inevitable, they took stock of their options, and they charted a proactive, realistic course for their own future that promised the most good for the most people. Therefore, they could also be called the world’s first true climate leaders.

Let’s hope that our world’s politicians and CEOs have the wisdom, foresight and fortitude of the elders of Carteret Islanders. Because like it or not, we will all be sailing the climate waves on our own, with or without a rudder and a plan.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2018/We_are_all_sailing_th...

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1 Aug 2018 - The GEF Humboldt project, implemented by the Government of Peru with UNDP support, promotes sustainable management of our ocean using an ecosystem management approach.

With this objective, its interventions range from reform of public policies, through to pilot projects to strengthen capacity and eliminate wasteful practices. One such pilot is currently generating a virtuous cycle in Pisco, to the south of Lima, through the promotion of fishing company certification in accordance with international standards for sustainable marine resource management.

One of these companies—aiming to become the first exporter of certified anchovy to the European market—assigns the initial processing phase to small female-headed businesses. This is generating a positive indirect effect on the local economy.

Understanding our ocean´s richness means also understanding its social impact: the fishing industry employs 250 thousand people along the Peruvian coast, the majority of whom are women. The activity of Ruth Jurado’s small business―which provides employment to some seventy women—coincides perfectly with Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims for the full and effective participation by women, and equality of opportunity for leadership at all decision-making levels in political, economic, and public life.

“We have young women, many of them mothers, who support themselves with the income they earn here. But we also have older women who would not find work elsewhere”, says Jurado, whose plant is located on a large site and has been constructed in accordance with the strict rules of the target market for this product—the European Union. In other words, cleanliness and order are fundamental aspects of the daily work.

Advantages of working in the processing plant include the fact that the labor is not heavy and that income is linked to productivity. The hours are another advantage: work begins early and finishes before lunchtime. This enables the women to look after their children when school finishes.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://pnudperu.exposure.co/women-of-the-sea

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Timor-Leste a mecca for whales, but they face threats - The Guardian
31 Jul 2018 - Managed properly, whale tourism could generate significant income for Timor-Leste, one of the world’s youngest – and poorest – nations.

31 Jul 2018 - THE GUARDIAN, UK - Olive Andrews believes Timor Leste could be one of the best destinations in the world for whale watching. The research scientist with a particular interest in cetaceans drew this conclusion when she joined a survey team assessing the coastal waters north of Timor-Leste in October 2016. “I’ve never seen such a biomass of cetaceans in such a small geography,” she says. “We encountered 2287 cetaceans from 11 species, including superpods of up to 600 individuals.”

There are 90 distinct species of cetacean – and at least 30 of them occur in Timor-Leste. These include both local populations like melon-headed whales and spinner dolphins, and migratory species such as humpbacks and pygmy blue whales. Managed properly, whale tourism could generate significant income for Timor-Leste, one of the world’s youngest – and poorest – nations.

Globally, whale watching is booming. According to Andrews whale tourism contributes around US$30m a year to the Pacific Islands group. Without it, countries like Tonga – famed for the humpbacks that congregate there to mate and nurse – could revert to whaling, which was practiced there on a small scale until as late as 1978.

It’s not just the quantity and diversity of whales in its territorial waters that make Timor-Leste so unique; it’s their proximity to the land. Geologically, Timor-Leste and its much smaller sister island Atauro are distinguished by the fact that neither was ever attached to a landmass – they were pushed above the ocean’s surface by tectonic activity. As a result, their reefs rarely stretch beyond 250 metres from shore before plunging to much greater depths. 

“Pygmy blue whales heading south towards Australia will hang out at a 200m depth contour right off the north coast of Timor; you can literally see them from the beach,” says Andrews.

This is because Timor-Leste lies in the middle of the Indonesian throughflow, where the waters of the Indian and Pacific Ocean collide, causing upwellings of nutrient-rich deep ocean water. The resulting mini-ecosystem is abundant in squid, making it an ideal feeding ground for whales. 

But the local whale population faces a number of threats. Timor-Leste is seeking to establish itself both politically and economically following a decades-long conflict with its former coloniser Indonesia, which only came to an end in 2002. Illegal fishing from neighbouring countries is rife and the tiny nation doesn’t yet have the resources to prevent it. Besides a single patrol boat there is no monitoring system to identify shipping in its territorial waters. Whales are getting tangled in vast ghost nets that drift all the way down to the Australian coast. According to Andrews, these intruders aren’t just artisanal fishers, but entire fishing fleets.

Timor-Leste’s ability to enforce fisheries legislation is questionable too. In September last year, ocean activists Sea Shepherd alerted Timor-Leste police to a Chinese fishing fleet illegally catching thousands of sharks. But Australia’s ABC News reported last month that after a nine-month investigation, the fleet had paid a one-off fine of $100,000 to go free, allegedly with its catch – estimated to be worth millions of dollars – intact. 

Resource extraction and infrastructure projects also present challenges. French company Bolloré Group has entered a public-private partnership to build a US$490m deep-water port west of the capital Dili. While an environmental impact assessment has been carried out, environmental NGO Conservation International has concerns about increases in shipping traffic and the dumping of dredged materials in whale feeding grounds. 

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2018/jul/31/timor-leste-a-mecca-for-whales-but-they-face-threats

Photograph: Grant Abel/Conservation International

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One man's quest to lead his village in Papua New Guinea to adapt to climate change
26 Jul 2018 - On World Mangrove Day, meet Alfred, an environmental activist whose team restored a mangrove forest by replanting 60,300 seedlings.

26 Jul 2018 - Alfred Masul is a conservation evangelist in his community located on the remote northern coast of Papua New Guinea. Well known for leading the charge in environmental rehabilitation, Alfred is restoring an ecosystem and promoting a sustainable path for his family and his community.

In Numuru Village, where Alfred is elder of the clan made up of his siblings, cousins, and children, dwellings are arrayed along their 3km of coastline.

After a bad flood about 10 years ago that caused massive damage and required the community to move further inland, Alfred started planting mangroves.

Working in the nearby secondary school, Alfred was a teacher’s aide and oversaw science exams. Sensitised to conservation, Alfred wanted to stop the excessive cutting of mangroves and work to rehabilitate their terrestrial and marine environments. Alfred believes:

‘The future is on your head’.


Alfred’s village is in Madang province, known for some of the highest mountain ranges in PNG, with correspondingly large valleys, coastal strips, volcanic islands, and atolls. In Numuru, the main crops are betel nut, copra, cocoa, and subsistence staples like sweet potato.

Many villagers are fishermen, which provides food and income.

The main climate change effects experienced in the area are inland flooding and coastal erosion. In 2015, a prolonged drought destroyed food gardens, in turn increasing dependence on rapidly depleting fish stocks.

In addition to overfishing pressures, and in a changing climate, warmer water = less dissolved oxygen; less dissolved oxygen = smaller fish.

CONTINUE READING HERE: https://undp-adaptation.exposure.co/no-ordinary-man