Learn how the World Bank Group is helping countries with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Find Out

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    Photo: Andrea Borgarello / World Bank - TerrAfrica

    Healthy oceans provide jobs and food, sustain economic growth, regulate the climate, and support the well-being of coastal communities.

    Billions of people worldwide —especially the world’s poorest— rely on healthy oceans as a source of jobs and food, underscoring the urgent need to sustainably use, manage and protect this natural resource. According to the OECD, oceans contribute $1.5 trillion annually in value-added to the overall economy.

    The FAO estimates that around 60 million people are employed worldwide in fishing and fish-farming, with a majority of those employed by the capture fisheries sub-sector working in small-scale operations in developing countries. In 2016, fisheries and aquaculture produced roughly 171 million tons of fish, with a “first sale” value estimated at US$362 billion, generating over US$152 billion in exports, with 54 percent originating in developing countries. Moreover, fish provided about 3.2 billion people with almost 20 percent of their average intake of animal protein, with an even higher proportion in poor countries.

    Healthy oceans, coasts and freshwater ecosystems are crucial for economic growth and food production, but they are also essential to global efforts to mitigate climate change. “Blue carbon” sinks such as mangroves tidal marshes, and seagrass meadows sequester and store more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. They also  protect coastal communities from floods and storms. In turn, warming oceans and atmospheric carbon are causing ocean acidification, which threatens the balance and productivity of the oceans.

    And yet, while ocean resources boost growth and wealth, they are brought to the brink by human activities. Fish stocks have deteriorated due to overfishing — the share of fish stocks outside biologically sustainable levels rose from 10 percent in 1974 to 33 percent in 2015, while in the same year approximately 60 percent of fish stocks were fully exploited. Fish stocks are affected by illegal, unregulated and unreported and  (IUU) fishing, which may account for up to 26 million tons of fish catches a year, or more than 15 percent of total catches. In fact, overfishing and overcapacity squanders roughly US$80 billion annually in foregone economic benefits . Fish habitats are also under pressure from pollution, coastal development, and destructive fishing practices that undermine fish stock recovery.

    Improved fisheries management, investment in sustainable aquaculture and protection of key habitats could restore the productivity of the ocean and return benefits to billions in developing countries, while ensuring future growth, food security and jobs for coastal communities.

    Oceans are also threatened by marine plastic pollution and each year an estimated 8 million additional tons of plastic enter the oceans from land-based sources.  Microplastics have been found around the world, in the food chain, air, oceans, rainwater, and ice in the Arctic. Plastic pollution hurts economies, ecosystems, food security, and might potentially impact public health. Addressing plastic pollution is complex, multi-sectoral, and country-specific; it requires putting a stop to leakages by improving solid waste management, building circular economies (following the principles of “3Rs” reduce, reuse, recycle), and encouraging clean-up.

    Responding to COVID-19

    The spread of COVID-19 has disrupted lives, communities, and economies worldwide, including those who depend on  oceans for their livelihoods.

    This includes fisheries, which play a key role for food security but are under threat if they are not managed sustainably. Increasing the level of fishing, by encouraging more people to start fishing, is a dangerous precedent that has been set in other crises and poses a serious risk to the sustainability of fisheries and jobs they provide. Likewise, disruptions in the value chain threaten the ability of fisherfolk to sell their catches, and make a living. Through its fisheries portfolio, the Bank can help client countries respond to this new pressure and to protect the integrity of fisheries.

    Other affected sectors are ecotourism and coastal tourism where people are experiencing a decrease in their incomes or have lost their livelihoods altogether. Those still working face an increased health and safety risk. Long-term interruptions of tourism will have significant consequences for the countries that rely on this sector for the domestic economy.

    The World Bank can help support local communities through smart investments to provide quick livelihood support in sectors like fisheries, tourism, and ecotourism. The World Bank is well-positioned to boost smaller enterprises, which would ease some economic pressure from the loss of jobs in the formal sector and allow for early inclusion of vulnerable groups, women, in the economic activity.

    Coastal communities, particularly in small-island developing states, are heavily reliant on marine resources for their livelihoods and food security.  Engaging these communities in conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of natural habitats can provide much-needed income in the short-term, while building socio-economic resilience as countries strive to revitalize their coastal economies.

    The coronavirus pandemic also poses difficult short-term choices between health and the environment, resulting in an increased use of single-use plastics and increased production of medical waste, which can end up in the Earth’s oceans. The World Bank Group is uniquely positioned to tackle this issue and will continue to do so. We finance solid waste management; recycling; clean production; and policy reforms for carbon pricing and green growth. We also support countries transitioning to a circular economy in places like Bangladesh, Lao PDR, Morocco and Pakistan. In low capacity environments, where waste systems are stretched or collapsed, the sea or rivers leading into the sea are used as dumping sites for medical waste.  This is extremely hazardous to humans and marine life. The World Bank will be increasing its support to healthcare waste management activities in COVID-19 emergency projects. The World Bank Environment team is strengthening and improving healthcare waste management and providing gear and capacity building to health care providers (utilizing Occupational Health and Safety guidelines).

  • The World Bank Group helps countries promote strong governance of marine and coastal resources to improve their contribution to sustainable and inclusive economies by supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, making coastlines more resilient, establishing coastal and marine protected areas, reducing pollution, and developing knowledge and capacity around ocean health.

    The World Bank and many of our partners have adopted a new  Blue Economy approach to oceans, which supports economic growth, social inclusion and the preservation or improvement of livelihoods while at the same time ensuring the environmental sustainability of oceans and coastal areas.

    As of March 2020, the World Bank’s overall oceans portfolio is worth around $5.6 billion in active projects.

    The Bank’s engagement in the Blue Economy is supported by PROBLUE, which aims to support healthy and productive oceans and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14). PROBLUE is fully aligned with the World Bank’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and increasing the income and welfare of the poor in a sustainable way. This new, umbrella multi-donor trust fund focuses on four key themes:

    1.    Fisheries and Aquaculture: Improving fisheries by tackling the underlying causes of overfishing and strengthening aquaculture sustainability

    2.    Marine Pollution: Addressing threats posed to ocean health from marine pollution, including litter and plastics, from marine or land-based sources

    3.    Oceanic Sectors: Enhancing sustainability of key oceanic sectors such as tourism, maritime transport and offshore renewable energy

    4.    Seascape Management: Building government capacity to manage marine resources, including nature-based solutions, and to mobilize private sector finance

    Active regional programs include support for the Pacific island regionWest Africa and South West Indian Ocean fisheries management, a partnership to build governance for migratory fish stocks in areas beyond and between national jurisdiction, and regional technical assistance to combat coastal erosion in West Africa.

    The Bank also contributes to knowledge around oceans and fisheries with publications such as Climate Change and Marine Fisheries in Africa : Assessing Vulnerability and Strengthening Adaptation Capacity, Fish to 2030: Prospects for Fisheries and Aquaculture and Trade in Fishing Services ReportThe Sunken Billions Revisited: Progress and Challenges in Global Marine Fisheries (a follow-up report to The Sunken Billions: The Economic Justification for Fisheries Reform), and The Potential of the Blue Economy Report (2017). The Blue Economy report discusses long-term benefits of the sustainable use of marine resources for small island developing states and coastal least developed countries. The Bank’s environmental data publication - The Little Green Data Book – featured the Blue Economy in its 2017 edition, providing indicators on capture fisheries, aquaculture production, and marine-related areas. The 2018 What a Waste 2.0 report examines solid waste management trends on a global, regional and urban level. 

    The 2019 Marine Pollution in the Caribbean: Not a Minute to Waste report provides an assessment of the status and impacts of marine pollution in the Caribbean and offers recommendations to enhance the region’s resilience as it steers toward the Blue Economy.

    The Bank convenes partners and stakeholders to mobilize ocean investment, advocate for positive reforms and ensure that healthy oceans remain on the global development agenda. It also works through partnerships, including PROBLUE. 

  • The West Africa Coastal Areas Management Program (WACA) aims to improve the management of shared natural and man-made risks affecting coastal communities in 17 West African countries on the coastline, from Mauritania to Gabon. The WACA program provides countries with access to technical expertise and finance to support the sustainable development of coastal zones, using the management of coastal erosion and hazardous flooding as entry point. The Program consists of a series of coastal resilience investment projects (ResIP) and a scale-up Platform.

    The WACA ResIP was approved by the World Bank in April 2018. The financial package includes $190 million from the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA) and a grant of $20.25 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to initially cover six countries (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal and Togo). Preparations are underway to start projects in Ghana and Nigeria. WACA works with existing regional institutions, including the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union, the Abidjan Convention, the Center for Ecological Monitoring, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

    The WACA Platform has three functions: to facilitate and increase access to knowledge, expertise, global good practices, and technical assistance; leverage and crowd-in financing for coastal resilience investments; and to provide a forum for dialogue to facilitate the involvement of other key partners, including the private sector. Currently, partners in France, Japan, Netherlands, Nordic countries, and Spain are engaged in scaling up the finance needed for coastal resilience through the WACA Finance Marketplace.

    In Vietnam, the Coastal Resources for Sustainable Development Project aimed at improving the sustainable management of coastal fisheries. It has successfully promoted integrated spatial planning (ISP) for coastal areas, the adoption of improved biosecurity in aquaculture, and co-management arrangements for near-shore capture fisheries. For example, by the end of the project, 50 shrimp Good Aquaculture Practices (GAP) zones were established and 251 GAP groups formed with 9,375 shrimp households participating and covering an area of 12,537 ha. The GAP zones were designed to manage the problems of disease, water pollution, and low productivity which affected the shrimp farms before the project. One of the key factors in improved shrimp farming was the monitoring of environmental risks caused by poor management of wastewater and solid waste from shrimp farms. In October 2018, 86 percent of farms in GAP zones were applying wastewater treatment that met the national standards for environmental management and 93 percent of the farms practiced proper pond sludge handling after harvest, compared to 9 percent before the project. The project also funded additional laboratory equipment, upgraded station facilities, and training to better control and reduce disease infection and outbreaks in the project provinces. The response time from disease reporting to effective disease outbreak containment was reduced from more than 10 days (before) to less than 4 days (after).

    In Romania, the Integrated Nutrient Pollution Control Project (INPCP) supports meeting the EU Nitrates Directive requirements by reducing nutrient discharges to water bodies, promoting behavioral change at the communal/regional level, and strengthening institutional and regulatory capacity.  Also, it supports efforts to reduce over the long-term the discharge of nutrients into water bodies leading to the Danube River and Black Sea through integrated land and water management. Protecting the Black Sea from harmful pollution will result in a more productive, healthy, resilient, and sustainable blue economy. Over 100 communes have benefited from support under the first phase of the project, 11 sewerage systems and communal wastewater treatment plants were built, seedlings were planted on 182 hectares in 57 communities, and laboratory equipment were secured for water quality testing; a first Romanian pilot plant for biogas production from manure was built. Over the past decade, the water quality and ecosystem of the Danube River and Black Sea basin have improved, benefiting marine and coastal ecosystems. Nitrogen and phosphorus emissions have also decreased by 20 percent and 50 percent respectively over the years.

    In India, the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project finances national- and state-level capacity building, land use planning, and pilot investments in pollution management, resource conservation, and livelihood improvements. The program is pioneering ‘Hazard Line’ mapping for the entire coastline of India, to better manage coastal space and minimize vulnerabilities through shoreline protection and land use plans. So far, 1.7 million people have benefitted from the program, with nearly half of them women, and 16,500 hectares of mangroves have been planted, making it one of the World Bank’s biggest habitat restoration projects. Sewage treatment plants for about 1 million people were completed, helping to prevent the flow of more than 80 million liters of untreated sewage into the ocean per day and to protect over 400 km of coastline.

    Mozambique’s fisheries sector has great growth potential and the ability to boost economic output by providing significantly larger returns and by contributing to poverty alleviation. The Mais Peixe Sustentável, project under ILM Portfolio’s SwioFish Program aims to reduce rural poverty, increase shared prosperity and promote development by encouraging investment in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture value chains. More than a thousand artisanal fisher households have already benefited from the project since its launch in February 2019.

    Indonesia—the largest archipelagic country on Earth—is home to a rich ocean ecosystems of tremendous economic potential. For over two decades, the Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Project (COREMAP) has been supporting the Government of Indonesia in harnessing the benefits of the blue economy. The initial stages of COREMAP successfully supported communities in taking part in managing their own coastal resources. Now in its third phase, the project is strengthening Indonesia's oceans research capacity by upgrading laboratories, training scientists, and undertaking nationwide ecosystem monitoring. It is also improving management effectiveness in nationally-significant marine protected areas in Raja Ampat, West Papua and Sawu Sea, East Nusa Tenggara, through ecotourism initiatives, community-based surveillance against illegal fishing, and threatened species conservation.

    The West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (Cabo Verde, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone as well as the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission) aims to increase the economic contribution of marine resources through strengthened fisheries governance, reduced illegal fishing, and increased value-added to fish products.  The fishing sector is of crucial importance to the coastal countries of West Africa, with an estimated $2.5 billion in fish legally captured each year in West African waters and 3 million individuals employed by the industry.  Fish is also an essential and affordable source of proteins and macronutrients for many Africans: for some of the West Africa countries, fish account for up to 60% of protein intake and nine Sub-Saharan Africa countries are in the top 20 of world fish-dependent countries.  Launched in 2010 with four countries, the program encompassed up to eight countries for a total funding envelope of nearly US$160 million (IDA and GEF). In Cabo Verde, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing has significantly decreased with direct positive results on livelihoods. In all countries, fisheries’ legal frameworks are better aligned on international standards and 37,000 canoes have been registered. The program set the foundations for a successful model of community-led fishery management. The size of fish increased at all sites, with improved transparency. Cleaner smoking ovens reduced toxins by 73 percent – plus a reduction in the amount of wood consumption and increased value of fish. In Sierra Leone, government revenues from licenses increased ten-fold.

    In Peru, the Bank partnered with the government to spur the adoption of new regulations to reduce overcapacity in the anchoveta fishing fleet. By December 2012, a total of 329 wood and steel vessels had been retired, representing around 30 percent of the original fleet. The government compensated affected workers and facilitated their transition into other economic activities. Harvesting was kept within the catch limit, set based on scientific evidence, to keep the fishery sustainable. As a result, independent fishers who remained in the sector landed a better-quality product and negotiated a 200 percent increase in price for the sale of their catch.

    The Bank approved in 2018 the Grenada First Fiscal Resilience and Blue Growth Development Policy Credit, a $30 million credit that aims to strengthen marine and coastal management. It will help the country transition to a blue economy as a way to fuel sustainable growth. It will do so by adopting measures such as a ban on single use plastic bags, Styrofoam containers and utensils, and establishing a marine protected area.

    The fisheries sector in the Caribbean is a major source of livelihoods and contributes significantly to food security in the region as well as the tourism sector which many islands depend on. Rapid recovery of the fisheries sector after a disaster is critical for the food security of many communities in the Caribbean. The fishing industry now can count on a parametric insurance product developed specifically for the fisherfolk in the Caribbean by the “Caribbean Oceans and Aquaculture Sustainability Facility (COAST). COAST was launched in two countries: Grenada and Saint Lucia. With financial support from the U.S. Department of State, the World Bank, the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF SPC), and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) have developed this first ever parametric insurance for the fisheries sector, which is designed to enhance resilience against the impacts of climate-related disasters.