1. About the Report
  2. Video
  3. New Ocean Narrative
  4. People and the Ocean
  5. The Problem
  6. A Sustainable Ocean Economy
  7. Action Agenda
  8. The Ocean as a Solution
  9. Related Resources

Ocean Solutions that Benefit People, Nature and the Economy

A report commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy

December 2020

The Ocean Provides Solutions to Global Challenges

'Ocean Solutions that Benefit People, Nature and the Economy', a report written by SYSTEMIQ and the Ocean Panel Expert Group co-chairs, sets out a new ocean narrative. The report illustrates how a sustainable ocean economy, where protection, production and prosperity go hand in hand, can create a healthy ocean that provides solutions to global challenges.
Drawing on the latest scientific research and analyses, including insights from 19 previous Ocean Panel-commissioned papers, this new narrative is paired with an ambitious and feasible action agenda. This report details how to achieve a sustainable ocean economy where people have more opportunities and better health, nature thrives and resources are distributed more equitably.

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Protect, Produce and Prosper in a Sustainable Ocean Economy

In a sustainable ocean economy, effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity go hand in hand. That’s a triple win for people, nature and the economy.

The New Ocean Narrative

Billions of people have personal connections to the ocean. For coastal populations, the ocean is not only a source of food and livelihoods, it is an intrinsic part of their culture and heritage. For the millions of people who earn their living from the ocean, it is a source of income and a way of life. For the 40% of the world’s population that live within 150 kilometres of the coast and the hundreds of millions of others who visit it, the ocean is central to their lives.
For life to endure and for humanity to continue enjoying the innumerable benefits that the ocean provides, a new relationship between humanity and the ocean is needed. It is imperative to accept that the future of people and the ocean are interconnected; that thinking differently can unleash benefits for both; and to show what thinking differently looks like. This timely report charts the way forward.

Humanity’s Well-Being Is Intertwined with the Health of the Ocean

The ocean plays an essential role in the daily lives of all of the planet’s inhabitants. It makes life both possible by providing half of the earth’s oxygen, and enjoyable by providing cultural, spiritual, and recreational benefits. It contributes more than $1.5 trillion a year to the global economy. What happens in the ocean affects not only fishers in Fiji but also farmers in Zimbabwe, whose imported tools may have travelled to Africa in a container ship and whose air quality and climate are affected by what happens in the ocean.

Its Potential Is Enormous, but the Ocean Is in Trouble

Human stressors affect virtually the entire ocean, making it more difficult for the ocean to sustain human life on earth. Climate change, overfishing, habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, pollution and other problems are damaging ocean health. Underrepresented and underserved communities bear a disproportionately large share of the burden of these impacts.

A New Relationship Can Create a Sustainable Ocean Economy

Abandoning the false choice between economic development and environmental protection, a sustainable ocean economy brings diverse stakeholders together to achieve common goals—the three Ps of effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity. In this new paradigm, groups work together by adopting integrated and balanced ocean management approaches in which each of the three Ps contributes to the others. This approach does not mean just leaving the ocean alone; it means proactively managing human activities to use the ocean wisely (rather than using it up), in order to create a healthier ocean that can help solve global challenges by providing healthier and more sustainable food, renewable energy and solutions to climate change. Investing in a sustainable ocean economy also presents an excellent economic opportunity, with each $1 invested yielding $5 net benefits, often more.

The Threats to the Ocean Are Great, but Solutions Exist

Achieving a sustainable ocean economy is possible. But it will not happen if business as usual continues. To transform the entire ocean system, it is important to get the fundamentals right. Five building blocks can set the foundation for a sustainable ocean economy: using data to drive decision-making; engaging in goal-oriented ocean planning; de-risking finance and using innovation to mobilise investment; stopping land-based pollution; and changing ocean accounting so that it reflects the true value of the ocean. With these foundations in place, sector-specific reforms, innovations and research can be implemented and accelerated.

The Ocean Is Too Big and Too Central to the Planet’s Future to Ignore

For years, the overarching view was that the ocean is so vast that it is simply too big to fail. The folly of this approach is now evident. The new dominant narrative is that the problems are so complex that the ocean is too big to fix. This view is also misguided. The ocean’s problems are real but actions can, and are already, being taken to solve them.

The ocean is not too big to fail, and it is not too big to fix. It is too big to ignore. The more we learn about the ocean, the more we see that it holds the answers to the most pressing challenges facing humanity, including climate change and food security. It is time to shift away from thinking of the ocean as a victim and toward seeing it as an essential part of the solution to global challenges. The choice is not between ocean protection and production. Together, ocean protection and production can help build a healthy and prosperous future for all.