The following is a short report by Sea Technology of the latest ocean topics discussed at the Asian Development Bank’s 2019 Annual Meeting.
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Ocean health in relation to sustainable development was a major theme of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Annual Meeting, held on Denarau Island, Fiji, May 1 to 5. ADB President Takehiko Nakao announced the launch of the ADB’s $5 billion Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies during the meeting. The plan will support the efforts of ADB’s developing member countries related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 14 on ocean conservation and sustainability. ADB will expand financing and technical assistance for ocean health and marine economy projects to $5 billion from 2019 to 2024, including co-financing from partners. The action plan focuses on four areas: creating inclusive livelihoods and business opportunities in sustainable tourism and fisheries; protecting and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems and key rivers; reducing land-based sources of marine pollution, including plastics, waste-water and agricultural runoff; and improving sustainability in port and coastal infrastructure development. Ocean ecosystems around the world are suffering from climate change, pollution and illegal and unregulated fishing. The Asia-Pacific region contains eight of the 10 rivers transporting 88 to 95 percent of plastics into the sea worldwide. Unless immediate action is taken, about 90 percent of Asia-Pacific’s coral reefs will be dead by 2050, and all commercially exploitable fish stocks will disappear by then. This will significantly threaten food security, the global economy and livelihoods, especially among millions of poor and vulnerable communities in the region. ADB will launch the Oceans Financing Initiative to create opportunities for the private sector to invest in bankable projects that will help improve ocean health through instruments such as credit-risk guarantees and capital market “blue bonds.” On the same day Nakao announced the ADB’s Action Plan for Healthy Oceans, a seminar on ocean health was held at the ADB Annual Meeting. The speakers were: Nakao; the Indonesian Minister for National Development Planning Bambang Brodjonegoro; Global Environment Facility CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii; World Resources Institute President and CEO Andrew Steer; and Pacific Islands Forum Deputy Secretary General Cristelle Pratt. Craig Leeson, director of “A Plastic Ocean,” moderated. Ocean resources are valued at $2.5 trillion, but they are threatened by 8 million tons of plastic being dumped into the oceans every year, Sea Technology reported from the seminar. “The ocean is suffering from tragedy of global commons,” said Ishii. However, “If we do shift our economic and financial paradigms, we can create a healthy ocean,” said Leeson, who brought up the example of his home town in Tasmania, which he witnessed transform from a heavily polluted coastal industrial town to a clean-water tourist destination. Raising awareness and monetizing values that promote ocean health are key. Steer emphasized that the narrative needs to change from helplessness to positive action; we already know the solutions to, for example, overfishing. Brodjonegoro explained how Indonesia has been successful in regulating overfishing by cracking down on illegal activities (partly by blowing up fishing vessels for deterrence). The Indonesian minister also said that both consumer and manufacturer behavior have to change to address the plastics problem; single-use plastics must be reduced. Ocean health is a large global problem, but it is not insurmountable, Leeson argued. With awareness, legislation and manufacturers’ involvement, ocean conservation and sustainable development are possible.