No matter how far you live from them, the world’s oceans and seas have a bigger impact on your life that you can ever imagine. Not only are they a significant source of food, they also produce more than half of the oxygen in our atmosphere and absorb a quarter of the carbon dioxide.
Ocean-based businesses are worth more than $500 billion. There are those whose livelihoods depend directly on our oceans and seas, and most of the products we use in our day-to-day lives reach us through the oceans, as well.
However, unwise and impractical habits and practices that we have adopted over the years have created problems for our oceans. Chief among them are overfishing and the destruction of biodiversity areas, which directly affect millions of lives.
This is why sustainable development is a critical matter. Healthy and productive oceans and seas are important for supporting human development and economic growth, so it’s about time we began taking care them rather than just taking from them.
But where should leaders, policymakers, and development professionals begin when creating programs for the sustainable development of the seas? Here are some areas of focus that need to be addressed.
Integrated Coastal Management
Coastal management involves many sectors that are seemingly unrelated, for instance aquaculture and shipping. However, one improperly managed sector may cause a spillover effect to other industries. Improperly managed tourism sites, for example, can have negative effects on fish populations, which in turn affects the livelihood of fisherfolk.
Conventionally, these separate sectors are managed individually by different bodies, which may not be enough to solve the combined challenges. This is why the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) advocates integrated coastal management or ICM as an important approach in addressing the issues related to the governance of different industries that collectively affect coastal and marine ecosystems.
ICM also provides a wider perspective on the impacts of the multi-faceted use of coastal resources. One important edge of ICM over traditional coastal management is preventing redundancy, especially in the development of management efforts, thus resulting in better efficiency.
Pollution and Waste Management
Land pollution can accumulate and make its way back to the oceans. This, along with massive water pollution from direct and natural contaminants, contributes to the degradation of water quality and eventual depletion of natural resources.
Preventing pollution in the long term necessitates a streamlined pollution management system and sound waste reduction and management solutions. It’s also important to involve people in the grassroots level, as local community participation can have a great impact on the implementation of these programs.
Natural and Manmade Hazard Prevention and Management
Storms, earthquakes (and resulting tsunamis), and algal blooms are only a few of the natural hazards that can affect marine life. However, there are also manmade dangers like oil and chemical spills that can affect the health of marine and coastal resources.
While we can do little to actually prevent some of these disasters from happening, a comprehensive response program should include addressing the negative effects of these occurrences on marine resources.
Some people may not completely understand the role that the oceans and seas play in both ecological and economic terms, thus resulting in lack of responsibility and action. Making the general public understand more concretely that everyone is a stakeholder in a healthy, thriving ocean ecosystem is a significant step in ensuring cooperation and participation among people.
Ocean literacy helps drive awareness on the existing sustainable development measures and efforts being implemented by both the public and private sectors. This can result in significant increase in monetary contributions and in developing new ideas that can further push these initiatives forward.
Sustainable development is a worthwhile endeavor, especially when it’s directed at our oceans and seas, which support the lives and livelihoods of millions of people worldwide. Good governance and political will, coupled with a focus on key areas, can help bring the multifarious goals of sustainable development into fruition.