Scientist Statement

SEVEN ASKS FOR THE G7

Why embracing the ocean is central to tackling climate disruption, supporting human wellbeing, and sustaining a successful recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, the G7 has a unique opportunity to lead the global ocean protection and recovery needed to tackle climate disruption, reverse biodiversity loss, support human wellbeing, and embark on a successful, inspirational recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The threats facing our planet are connected. We cannot solve the climate or biodiversity crises if we ignore the ocean. To turn the tide in favor of humanity and a habitable planet we need to better understand the ocean, value it, and prioritize urgent action to protect it at the Earthscape level.

G7 nations have unparalleled capacity and political will to make this happen. Governments and communities across the world are signalling a determination to build a better, greener, and more equitable world after the pandemic is finally under control. The G7 meeting in Cornwall could be a turning point, where we see commitments to meaningful, united action for the ocean on a timeline that could actually make a difference.  It is  a chance to commit to integrated, science-based solutions that address the interconnectivity between the ocean, climate and biodiversity.

In this context, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) convened a virtual workshop of international scientists to highlight the critical importance of the ocean and outline a plan of action to ensure a sustainable ocean future for nature and people. The scientists identified 7 asks for the G7 to lead a stimulus package of policy and science interventions to stop damaging the ocean; protect and restore the ocean; and lead a decade of global ocean action.

STOP DAMAGING THE OCEAN

1.     Ban destructive extraction of ocean resources 

2.     Unite to regulate and eliminate ocean pollution

 PROTECT, MANAGE AND RESTORE THE OCEAN

3.     Expand effective ocean protection, management and restoration for people,    biodiversity and climate

4.     Catalyze and coordinate action on ocean, carbon and climate 

LEAD A DECADE OF GLOBAL OCEAN ACTION 

5.     Prioritize nature-based solutions and support ocean science 

6.     Close the gaps in ocean governance and finance 

7.     Mainstream ocean education 

STOP DAMAGING THE OCEAN

Ocean life is essential for a habitable planet – but it is fragile. Marine ecosystems should not be damaged to maximize profits for certain countries and companies. G7 states must urgently stop funding, supporting, or permitting highly destructive activities and redirect incentives towards positive outcomes that benefit people and the planet. 

 1.  BAN DESTRUCTIVE EXTRACTION OF OCEAN RESOURCES

Policy actions:

  • Immediately ban all new offshore oil and gas exploration and production, and rapidly phase out existing offshore oil and gas extraction using innovative financing and incentive mechanisms.
  • Impose a precautionary freeze on all deep-sea mining until it can be proven that its techniques do not harm the ocean.
  • Implement a ban on all bottom trawling and dredging on vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) and in all Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). 
  • Prohibit all harmful fisheries subsidies, eliminate all fisheries subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and refrain from introducing new subsidies.

Science actions:

  • Lead a collective science initiative, via the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable

Development, to study the impacts of deep-sea mining and assess the risk of significant adverse impacts and irreversible consequences.

  • Respect the extensive scientific evidence that overfishing and bottom trawling and dredging damages the ocean and that demonstrates the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels to solve the climate crisis.

2.   UNITE TO REGULATE AND ELIMINATE OCEAN POLLUTION

Policy actions:

  • Reverse the burden of proof on all pollutants and take a precautionary approach, especially regarding new compounds with unknown impacts. 
  • Commit to negotiating a Global Plastics Treaty to reduce or eliminate unnecessary plastics, set global limits for virgin plastic production, and establish globally aligned standards.
  • Establish and enact mandatory policies and regulations on anthropogenic noise in the ocean, accelerate the roll out of technology that reduces ocean noise, and align with related climate asks, e.g. on shipping.

Science actions:

  • Support further research into how marine litter, particularly plastic, cycles in the ocean and interacts with the ocean’s physical and biological processes.
  • Commence research aimed at increasing our understanding of the links between climate, plastics and other pollutants.
  • Target micro- and nanoplastics in sampling studies.
  • Require studies and impact assessments of new compounds prior to their release into the ocean, including potential impacts on both human health and marine ecosystems.

PROTECT, MANAGE AND RESTORE THE OCEAN

Less than 8% of the global ocean currently lies within a MPA but only 2.7% is being fully or highly protected, in sharp contrast to the at least 30% in high or full protection called for by the scientific community. Meanwhile, the ocean is bearing the brunt of regulating our planet’s temperature, alongside its role as a vast carbon sink, thus ensuring a habitable Earth. The G7 should lead the way in agreeing ambitious global ocean protection and restoration targets and coordinate their implementation with climate and biodiversity policy, taking an Earthscape approach that recognizes the inter-connectivity between climate change, carbon sequestration, and ecosystems.

3.     EXPAND OCEAN PROTECTION, MANAGEMENT, AND RESTORATION FOR PEOPLE, CLIMATE AND BIODIVERSITY

Policy actions:

  • Agree – and take coordinated action to ensure – that by 2030 at least 30% of the ocean is within implemented, actively managed fully or highly protected areas, with the remaining 70% sustainably and precautionarily managed, and raise ambitions to achieve 50% ocean protection in the near future.
  • Establish mechanisms for designating MPAs that not only target biodiversity but can help mitigate or adapt to climate change (e.g. carbon stores) and proactively create networks of MPAs focussed on climate mitigation and resilience.
  • Sustainably manage fisheries to make them more viable, less damaging to ecosystems, and of benefit to the greatest number of people, and integrate climate into fishing policies.

Science actions:

  • Support studies into the role of MPAs to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
  • Encourage research aimed at increasing our understanding of the added value of connected MPA networks, including increased adaptation to climate change and improved fisheries outcomes.
  • Set up a global inventory of restored marine habitats and track progress towards national and global targets, ensuring restoration follows best practice scientific methods.
  • Increase funding for long-term ocean observation and establish new and improved marine biodiversity monitoring to enhance our capacity to measure trends, enable climate modelling, and improve MPA design.
  • Expand the coverage and number of variables measured by Argo floats and deploy equivalent deep ocean and sea shelf remote sampling systems.

4.    COORDINATE ACTION ON OCEAN, CARBON AND CLIMATE

Policy actions:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions beyond Paris Agreement targets, with a focus on CO2 and methane.
  • Recognize the climate impact of all GHG generating activities in the ocean, e.g. bottom trawling and dredging on the seabed, and include emissions from these activities in carbon accounting.
  • Incentivize alternative methods to increase renewable energy use that do not require deep sea mining for minerals. 
  • Coordinate the implementation of MPA management plans with climate change and carbon storage strategies to improve environmental policy, value for money, and transparency.
  • Protect what we have by conserving the carbon sequestration capacity of the ocean, e.g. the mesopelagic pump, and carbon buried in seafloor sediments.

Science actions:

  • Increase global funding for ocean monitoring and research into changes in the ocean and their implications for the future direction of climate change.
  • Support the mapping and quantification of “blue carbon” stocks to enhance understanding of how to use marine protection to support the Paris Agreement and NDCs, and how to convert blue carbon conservation into sustainable financing mechanisms.
  • Initiate a global study of the Earth System services of the deep ocean with a particular emphasis on climate mitigation and provisioning.
  • Strengthen support for the Continuous Plankton Recorder, the longest running study of ocean plankton and change, and establish new monitoring in the large area of the ocean not covered at present to improve our understanding of plankton and their links to climate change.

LEAD A DECADE OF GLOBAL OCEAN ACTION

G7 states are uniquely placed to champion the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and create the conditions needed to drive a decade of global action. As major economies, the G7 has the unparalleled resources and responsibility to provide leadership, coordinating capacity, and financial support to deliver the joined-up science, governance and finance we need for a healthy, productive, resilient ocean that benefits and inspires humankind. 

5.   PRIORITIZE MARINE NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS AND SUPPORT OCEAN SCIENCE 

Policy actions:

  • Prioritize nature-based solutions in ocean and climate-related policies.
  • Scale up solutions to the Earthscape level by coordinating policy, financing, and research at the supra-national level to support the recovery of nature, on land, in fresh water, and in the neglected ocean. 
  • Each G7 Head of State to commit to host one of the seven key Outcome Areas of the UN Decade of Ocean Science, agreeing to support it financially and in kind in partnership with a country in the Global South.

Science actions:

  • Allocate increased funding to target the science priorities identified in the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
  • Address inequities and imbalances in funding and regional capacity in marine science, including action to counter the “brain drain” of scientists from the Global South.
  • Support research into the “rights of nature” and how to incorporate them into national and international law.

6.    CLOSE THE GAPS IN OCEAN GOVERNANCE AND FINANCE

Policy actions:

  • Agree upon a robust, binding High Seas Treaty for ocean biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) with maximum protections, including mechanisms for establishing high seas MPAs, in line with best scientific advice.
  • Recognize the climate governance gap in the high seas and address the problem that UNFCCC jurisdiction ends at the edge of the EEZ.
  • Push for major reform of Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (RFMOs) to adopt global standards and introduce systems for closing high seas regions to fishing if RFMOs do not fulfil their mandates, in order to allow ecosystems and species time to recover.
  • Agree upon financing arrangements to support the implementation of the BBNJ Treaty and Convention on Biological Diversity Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.
  • Close the blind spot for nature in global economics by increasing public funding and establishing an integrated, equitable and just finance mechanism to support ocean, climate and biodiversity targets globally.
  • Support the uptake of nature-based solutions in infrastructure finance and facilitate private-sector engagement, while ensuring equity and transparency in ocean-based investments.
  • Ensure that the growing Blue Economy improves ocean health and prevents damage to ecosystems and underlying services.

7.   ADVANCE OCEAN EDUCATION 

Policy actions:

  • Support a global public and government information campaign to educate decision-makers and citizens on the important links between the ocean, climate change, biodiversity, and their immense value for human health and well-being.
  • Agree to global standards for ocean literacy in schools.
  • Establish and implement a G7-wide ocean literacy program and promote its global roll out.
  • Humanize the new ocean narrative by focusing economic development on the objective of increasing human well-being.

Science actions:

  • Support studies aimed at enhancing our understanding of behaviour change pathways and the consequences of the language used around ocean issues.
  • Understand the effectiveness of ocean literacy programs in building a more ocean-friendly society.

A group of scientists were involved in the workshop and in authoring the full publication which is still ongoing. Those signing up to this briefing version are (list being updated all the time):

Statement authors:

Dr Diva Amon

Director and Founder of SpeSeas, Trinidad and Tobago

Scientific Associate, Natural History Museum, London, UK

Randall Arauz

Marine Biologist and Marine Conservation and Policy Advisor

Fins Attached Marine Research and Conservation, Costa Rica

Professor Julia K. Baum

President’s Chair, Ocean Ecology and Global Change, University of Victoria, Canada

Professor John Baxter 

Member of Board of Trustees at Scottish Association for Marine Science

Honorary Professor, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK

Dr Joachim Claudet

National Center for Scientific Research, Paris, France

Dr Antonio Di Franco

Senior Researcher at Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Department of Integrative Marine Ecology, Sicily, Palermo, Italy

Dr Craig Downs 

Executive Director at Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, USA

Dr Susanna Fuller

Oceans North, Halifax, Canada

Kristina M. Gjerde 

Adjunct Professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, USA

Professor Jason Hall-Spencer

School of Marine and Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, UK

Shimoda Marine Research Center, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Professor Kazuo Inaba

Shimoda Marine Research Center, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Dr Heather Koldewey

Co-Founder and Field Conservation Manager, Project Seahorse

Senior Technical Advisor, Zoological Society of London

National Geographic Explorer

Honorary Professor, University of Exeter, UK

Professor Dan Laffoley

Principal Advisor, Marine Science and Conservation, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme, UK

Marine Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, Switzerland

Professor Lisa Levin

Integrative Oceanography Division, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, USA 

Professor Marco Milazzo

Professor of Marine Ecology

Department of Earth and Marine Sciences (DiSTeM), University of Palermo, Italy

Professor Philip Chris Reid

Professor of Oceanography at the School of Biological and Marine Sciences at the University of Plymouth, UK

Professor Callum Roberts 

Professor of Marine Conservation in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, UK

Professor Alex David Rogers

Science Director at REV Ocean

Visiting Professor, University of Oxford, UK

Dr Michelle Taylor 

Director of Marine Biology, School of Life Sciences, University of Essex, UK

Torsten Thiele

Senior Research Associate, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam

Founder, Global Ocean Trust, Germany

Dr Lucy Woodall

Senior Research Fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Principal Scientist, Nekton Foundation, Oxford, UK

For further information about this statement or to contact the authors, you can get in touch with Mirella@stateoftheocean.org