The question for me is not if we will continue to explore the ocean and exploit its resources; it’s how, when and where we should do it. Blue Growth by Design is an approach to ocean conservation and management that balances the interests of people and nature, while ensuring that conservation has a voice. At TNC, we believe that the most important levers are: 1) international, collective action; 2) smarter use of sea space based on new science and technology; 3) increased investments in natural solutions to address climate change; and 4) strong, cross-sector collaboration.
More than 40% of our planet—the high seas—lies outside any national jurisdiction. Fish stocks, pollution and climate change aren’t contained by national boundaries and to manage resources, we need international cooperation and legally binding laws and treaties.
Blue Growth and climate change are exerting growing pressure on ocean areas, only about 3% of which are protected. The “30/30” target, to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030, is an important goal to help offset this pressure and build ocean resilience. But simply setting targets is not enough. Establishing smart, effective marine protected areas (MPAs) based on scientific planning and strong management will preserve ocean wealth.
The reality is that little can be achieved without funding. The ocean covers over 70% of our planet, yet in 2013, less than 5% of the $9.7 billion donated to environmental issues was devoted to marine causes.
In response, TNC is using innovative financing methods, like first-of-their-kind debt conversions, to leverage more of this money. For example, in February 2016, with a combination of grant and impact capital, we helped the Government of the Seychelles finance a more than $20 million debt buy-back from its Paris Club creditors, to help create a marine spatial plan for their entire Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and place 30% of it—400,000 km2—into biodiversity protection zones. By working with other Small Island Developing States to provide similar financial opportunities, we intend to facilitate an additional 2 million km2 of MPAs.
None of this work can be done alone. I know from my years as EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs that it’s essential to build strong partnerships. TNC is working with fishermen, governments, scientists, the insurance industry, the tourism industry, the World Bank, the Red Cross and businesses to help drive the changes we need.
We see the current boom in ocean industries as a call to action, a chance to design sustainable Blue Growth. I am confident that together we can get this right.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in partnership with Secretary of State John Kerry’s Our Ocean conference and Ocean Unite, an initiative to unite and activate powerful voices for ocean-conservation action. The series is being produced to coincide with the Our Ocean Conference (September 15th, 16th) as part of HuffPost’s “What’s Working“ initiative, putting a spotlight on initiatives around the world that are solutions oriented. To read all the posts in the series, read here. The State Department does not endorse the content of this blog. Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #OurOcean #MakeASplash.