Arctic Ocean near Spitsbergen

Oceans and biodiversity Protecting the oceans and using them sustainably

The world’s oceans are a key element of the global ecosystem and they harbour great biodiversity. They also make a significant contribution to food security and play an important part in climate regulation.

Two out of three of Germany’s partner countries in development cooperation are island or coastal nations. The number of people who live in low-lying coastal regions is steadily increasing, especially in the Asian metropolises that are home to millions.

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 marine conservation and the management of coastal economic areas.

Ten-point Plan of Action for Marine Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries

The Ten-point Plan of Action for Marine Conservation and Sustainable Fisheries has guided the BMZ’s activities in the field of marine conservation since 2016. The ten points are:

  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

Three marine conservation initiatives

Oceanic whitetip shark in company of some pilot fish

Cooperation in action The Blue Action Fund – preserving the world’s oceans Internal link

The Blue Action Fund (BAF) was established by the BMZ and KfW Entwicklungsbank in 2016. Since then the BMZ has contributed 80 million euros to the Fund.

Mangrove forest in India

Cooperation in action Save Our Mangroves Now! Internal link

Mangrove forests form a highly specialised tropical coastal ecosystem at the meeting point of land and sea. They perform key functions for the climate, biodiversity and food security.

Shoal of fish (golden-striped fusiliers) in Papua New Guinea

Cooperation in action MeerWissen – African-German Partners for Ocean Knowledge Internal link

The oceans are enormously important for economic development and food security in the coastal states of Africa. But marine ecosystems are under threat as a result of pollution and overuse.

Background Biodiversity of marine ecosystems under threat

Pollution, overfishing and global climate change all impact adversely on the ocean ecosystem and jeopardise the basis of many people’s livelihoods. Species-rich marine and coastal habitats such as mangrove forests, sea grass meadows and coral reefs are being degraded on a large scale by logging, destructive fishing practices and other interventions.

It is not only species diversity that is at risk: fish stocks are also under threat and with them the livelihoods of many fishing families. One-third of all surveyed fish stocks are currently classed as overfished, while 60 per cent are being fished to the very limits of sustainability.

The pollution of marine ecosystems by litter is increasing worldwide and is one of the most visible threats to the oceans. It is estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the oceans each year. This is not only damaging ecosystems on coasts and on the high seas but also affecting fishing and tourism.

The warming and acidification of the oceans brought about by climate change harms sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs. Two-thirds of the world’s coral reefs are now seriously endangered.

At the same time, rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather events pose a serious risk to coastal areas and their inhabitants.

At present only 7.7 per cent of the world’s coastal and marine areas are protected – and not all these areas actually have effective protection plans or the funds needed for monitoring. The goal agreed in the Convention on Biological Diversity of providing effective protection for at least ten per cent of ocean areas by 2020 has not been achieved.

Still from the video " Ocean 4 Life – Securing sustainable ocean development"

Video Ocean 4 Life – Securing sustainable ocean development

Still from the video "Ocean 4 Life – Linking knowledge and policy for action"

Video Ocean 4 Life – Linking knowledge and policy for action

Still from the video "Ocean 4 Life – Nature-based Solutions for people and planet"

Video Ocean 4 Life – Nature-based Solutions for people and planet

International efforts to protect the seas

The issue of marine protection has in recent years acquired greater prominence in international policy discussions and has been incorporated into international and regional agreements.

For example, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 (External link) contains important targets for marine nature, including targets for sustainable fishing, the expansion of protected areas and the protection of corals. However, despite some progress, none of the targets have been achieved. In the ongoing negotiations on a new framework, Germany is urging the parties to maintain ambitious targets, mobilise funding for implementation and establish better supervisory mechanisms.

One of the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda is specifically dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources (SDG 14: Life below water). In 2017 the United Nations Ocean Conference on implementation of SDG 14 resulted in more than 1,600 voluntary commitments by governments, civil society groups and private-sector stakeholders. The second UN Ocean Conference (External link) on SDG 14 was to have been held in Lisbon in June 2020, but because of the coronavirus pandemic it was postponed to 2022.

In 2015 the G7 – under German presidency – adopted an Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter, while the G20 Action Plan on Marine Litter was adopted – likewise under German presidency – in 2017.

The United Nations has designated the period 2021-2030 the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (External link). The “Ocean Decade” aims to achieve implementation, on the basis of science, of the marine targets of the 2030 Agenda. The Decade’s kick-off event took place in Berlin on 1 June 2021.

The sixth “Our Ocean” conference, held in October 2019, also pushed for greater commitment to marine conservation. One of the issues addressed was the funding of marine protection in developing countries via the Blue Action Fund.

In May 2020 Germany joined the Global Ocean Alliance, which campaigns for marine nature conservation. This international initiative is calling for at least 30 per cent of the world’s oceans and seas to be protected by 2030.