Global Influencers Turn the Tide toward Ocean Health

October 16, 2013


A commitment to aligning ocean health with human well-being will help revive oceans for future generations.

Photo by Jack London

  • The declining health of oceans is jeopardizing the well-being of communities around the world and could put millions of jobs at risk.
  • To address the oceans crisis, the World Bank convened the Global Partnership for Oceans’ Blue Ribbon Panel, a diverse group of influencers who believe a holistic approach is needed that combines the efforts of big and small business, government and science.
  • The panel will prioritize investments that advance sustainable livelihoods, social equity, and food security; ocean health; effective governance systems; capacity-building and innovation and are viable in the long term.

Human activity has taken a serious toll on oceans over the last century. Overfishing has depleted fish stocks—the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that approximately 57 percent of fish stocks are fully exploited and another 30 percent are over-exploited, depleted or recovering. Nutrient runoff and pollution from sources on land have created oxygen-starved dead zones that are inhospitable to most forms of marine life. Climate change is driving up ocean temperatures and leading to ocean acidification.

Declining ocean health jeopardizes the well-being and livelihoods of coastal communities around the globe—as well as hundreds of millions of jobs that rely on ocean-related industries like tourism, fishing, shipping and biotechnology.

So what can be done to turn the tide?

A new report from a panel of global experts convened by the World Bank to guide the Global Partnership for Oceans, lays out a way forward for aligning ocean health with human well-being.

Coming together to make an ocean of difference

The Blue Ribbon Panel of experts from 16 countries represents a vast array of ocean interests with representation from government, the private sector, civil society organizations, science, economics and multi-lateral institutions.

“Getting to healthy oceans is a global challenge that needs the concentrated effort of big and small business, government and science,” said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Blue Ribbon Panel chair and director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. “Though they brought very different world views, everyone on this panel agreed that we can’t keep going with business-as-usual and all parts of society must be part of the solution.”

Among many others, the diverse panel includes seafood industry leader Chris Lischewski, president and CEO of Bumble Bee Foods; oceanographer Sylvia Earle; fisheries economist Ragnar Arnason; and Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Tuiloma Neroni Slade.

" “The process of bringing this diverse and powerful group together shows what is possible through effective partnership.The panel’s top priorities build naturally from the GPO’s objectives of healthy oceans and poverty alleviation and their recommendations will make this partnership strategic in how and where it works.” "

Juergen Voegele

Agriculture and Environment Services Director at the World Bank

Redefining what’s possible in ocean health and human well-being

The Blue Ribbon Panel recommends that the GPO—and others making future ocean investments—base their approach on five key principles that integrate social, economic and ecological considerations.

Taking a holistic view of the ocean challenge, the principles prioritize GPO investments that advance sustainable livelihoods, social equity and food security; ocean health; effective governance systems; capacity-building and innovation and are viable in the long term. The principle-based strategy will help the GPO make smart decisions on where, when, and how it can have the highest impact.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the ocean challenge. But there are solutions that can benefit both oceans and economies. By coming together at this critical time in history, the GPO’s message is clear:  it’s in everyone’s best interest to revive ailing oceans for future generations.