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Marine Science



NGOs and industry call on governments to join a coalition for the oceans

A new report summarising the perspectives of more than 225 NGOs, seafood industry professionals and experts, from 31 countries, highlights that almost half (48%) believe that sustainable sourcing policy is the most effective way to accelerate progress towards ending the crisis facing the oceans. Participants discussed the idea of a “Paris Agreement for the oceans” and concluded that national governments are critical actors in this; without their buy-in making effective progress on SDG 14 would be impossible.

The report, Accelerating Progress on Healthy and Productive Oceans, summarises the perspectives shared during the SDG Leadership Forum for Goal 14: Life Below Water, an online discussion hosted by GlobeScan, Nomad Foods and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). It identifies barriers and potential actions to deliver the ambitious 2020 targets and 2030 deadlines set out in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG14).

The report will be used at the MSC’s annual Seafood Futures Forum, taking place at Seafood Expo Global in Brussels, to discuss what comes next for the industry. During the event, panellists representing industry, NGOs, academics and standards setters will use the findings as a jumping off point to discuss the practicalities of breaking down barriers to accelerate action to safeguard our oceans.

In the report, participants representing NGOs, industry, standards setters and research institutions, agreed on three critical issues—an “unholy trinity”—facing our oceans: climate change, pollution and overfishing. Three important themes also emerged to advance progress on tackling these and delivering SDG 14:

• Engaging consumers: While consumers are most concerned about pollution and its effects, experts worry most about climate change and overfishing. The forum agreed that this is because ‘life below the water’ is detached from most people’s reality and because of the recent media focus on plastic pollution. Participants agreed on the need for clearer messaging and local action to create stronger engagement and commitment among not only consumers, but also governments and the private sector. Creating public awareness and a greater sense of urgency requires a common language, less confusing messages and breaking down bigger problems so that they are easier to understand and tackle.

• Overcoming a tragedy of the commons: The scale of the oceans and the transboundary nature of governing them has led to a lack of ownership of the issues and an absence of collaboration at a global scale. NGOs, charities and advocacy groups were seen as contributing the most to ocean conservation, followed by certification organisations and large companies or brands. Only one in ten saw national governments as contributing the most, yet international multi-stakeholder collaboration was seen as vital to delivering progress, with governments playing a key leadership role. This includes driving global agreements, data sharing and collaborative financing.

• Supporting the developing world: 81% of respondents thought that the developed world needs to ease pressure on the developing world. Respondents suggested that, once again, government intervention is key for this to be successful and that more conversations between both developed and developing countries are needed to establish what support is needed. They agreed that technology will play a key role in this kind of transboundary collaboration, and will also help improve governance, monitoring and cooperation between stakeholders.

Chris Coulter, CEO at GlobeScan said: “The SDG Leadership Series aims to connect the world’s leading influential thinkers to inspire, inform and help catalyse action to address each of the 17 SDGs. Of all the SDGs, Life Below Water (SDG14) has been slower to gain momentum and we must all work harder to put this critical goal on the agenda. This forum highlighted some of the reasons for this but also provides many tangible opportunities to be seized to drive more progress.”

Annelie Selander, Global Sustainability Director at Nomad Foods said: “With the world experiencing intensified planetary issues, we all need to step up our actions. And we need to do it fast. Nomad Foods has set itself a challenging target of 100% certified fish and seafood by 2025. To get there we need to work collaboratively across the industry. We hope that others will join us in embracing bold commitments to safeguard our oceans.”

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive at the MSC said: “Our oceans are in trouble. If we are to meet the ambitious goals of SDG 14, we have to dramatically scale the delivery of workable solutions. Whilst responding to the immediate threat of global climate change is daunting, overfishing can be fixed. We know what the problem is and how to fix it. The UN FAO’s latest State of the World’s Fisheries has shown what fantastic progress has been made in the USA, North East Atlantic and elsewhere in reversing the decline in global fish stocks and reducing the number of over exploited stocks. The challenge now is to replicate this success in the developing world where 73% of the world’s seafood comes from and where stocks health continues to decline. MSC is determined to work with our partners to dramatically increase the engagement of developing world fisheries and to assist them on their pathway to sustainability.”

The panel moderator, Dr Stephen Hall, an expert in organisational change and ex-Director General at WorldFish concluded:“Effective partnerships that bring industry, academia, government, and civil society together in meaningful dialogues that result in effective collective action, is essential for solving our problems. Every one of the problems we need to solve to address SDG 14 could benefit from some honest conversations about existing partnerships and how they could be enhanced or re-imagined.”