Germany’s contribution

Protecting oceans and ensuring their sustainable use

Nordpolarmeer bei Spitzbergen

The world’s oceans cover more than 70 per cent of the surface of our planet. They fulfil important climate-regulating functions, are home to enormous biodiversity and make a significant contribution to securing our food supplies. Across the world 2.9 billion people meet over 20 per cent of their need for animal protein through fish. The fisheries sector, in particular artisanal small-scale fishing, provides a livelihood for more than ten per cent of the world’s population. And the majority of these people live in developing countries.

Marine ecosystems under threat

Swarm of fish (goldband fusiliers) in Papua New Guinea

Pollution, overfishing and global climate change all impinge on the ocean ecosystem and jeopardise the very existence of many people.

Species-rich marine and coastal habitats such as mangrove forests, sea grass meadows and coral reefs are egregiously degraded by logging, destructive fishing practices and other interventions. In addition, only 3.4 per cent of ocean regions are protected worldwide and, in many protected areas, the protection exists in name only. This is not enough to achieve the goal agreed in the Convention on Biological Diversity, namely that at least ten per cent of marine areas are conserved by 2020.

Besides the threat to species diversity, fish stocks are also under threat and with them the livelihoods of many fishing families. Ninety per cent of today’s fish stocks worldwide are considered to have been either overfished or exploited right to the very limits of sustainability.

Plastikmüll am Ufer des Roten Meeres

At the same time, ocean pollution from waste is increasing dramatically. Huge quantities of plastic waste end up in the oceans every year. Ecosystems along the coasts and out at sea, fishing and tourism, all suffer and are impaired as a result.

The warming and acidification of the oceans brought about by climate change impacts sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs significantly. Sixty-seven per cent of coral reefs are already in grave danger. And, at the same time, rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather events represent a serious danger to the coastal areas and their inhabitants.

Current international efforts to protect the seas

Unterwasseraufnahme: Sonnenstrahlen durchdringen die oberen Wasserschichten eines Ozeans

The topic of marine protection has become a strong focus of international policy discussions and has been incorporated into international and regional agreements. For example, at the June 2015 G7 summit in Elmau under Germany’s presidency, an action plan to combat littering of the seas was adopted. The topic was also on the agenda of the G20 summit in July 2017, which was also under Germany’s presidency.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a sustainable development goal dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources (SDG 14). In order to discuss how this sustainability goal might be realised, in June 2017 the United Nations convened the Ocean Conference, co-chaired by the island nation of Fiji, which took place in New York. It was the first ever UN conference dedicated to the realisation of one single SDG from the 2030 Agenda.

Also, Fiji assumed presidency of the UN climate conference in November 2017 in Bonn where oceans and the particular issues facing small island nations were significant topics at the conference, too.

German activities

Ein kleiner Junge am Strand von Beira (Mosambik)

Over two thirds of Germany’s partner countries in development cooperation are island or coastal nations. More than half of the world’s population is already living in coastal regions; in 2020 that figure will probably have risen to nearly two thirds.

In order to preserve coastal habitats for future generations and enable their sustainable use, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) will continue to step up its activities in connection with managing coastal economic spaces and with marine conservation.

Ten-point plan of action for marine conservation and sustainable fisheries

Fischer in Mauretanien

The BMZ has combined all the activities it is engaged in with relation to the oceans in this ten-point plan of action for marine conservation and sustainable fisheries. We wish to

  1. Create more, better managed marine protected areas
  2. Encourage sustainable artisanal fishing and aquaculture
  3. Encourage sustainable, socially responsible processing and marketing of fish
  4. Support the efforts of partner countries to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
  5. Build strategic partnerships with the private sector
  6. Support the efforts of partner countries to reduce marine pollution
  7. Develop strategies for dealing with potentially irreversible damage to marine ecosystems
  8. Support coastal regions in adapting to climate change
  9. Expand early warning systems for the impacts of climate change
  10. Support cooperation initiatives covering multiple countries and sectors

More detailed information on each of the points is available here (PDF 1 MB).

BMZ glossary

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