The Sustainable Development Goals for the Ocean, Part 3
By Phoebe Turner
What exactly does it mean to increase the economic benefits for the sustainable use of marine sources? Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), especially rely on fisheries, aquaculture and tourism to sustain their economies and livelihood. Compared to developed or developing economies, the GDP generated by fishers is the highest in LDC’s and SIDS. Fisheries often contribute more than 10% of these countries total GDP, and over 90% of their animal protein diet. Often, these countries don’t receive nearly as much of the total profits that they should from their exports. With increasing fish exports from SIDS and LCDs, it’s especially important to enforce a greater retention of revenue within these countries.
Not surprisingly, tourism accounts for a large portion of LDCs and SIDS economies. Tourism to these states generates the largest source of foreign exchange and accounts for upwards of 50 percent of GDP and 30 percent employment within a state. Since sea-based tourism generates so much revenue, investment and employment, making sure this can continually be a source of prosperity should not be undervalued.
Editor’s note: At this point, the SDGs switch from being numbered (14.1, 14.2, etc) to letters (14.A, 14.B). Each of the other SDGs use a similar format, but the reason for the switch and the difference between the numbered goals and the lettered goals isn’t completely clear.
For the most part, the numbered goals are more specific, with end dates (“…By 2030…”). The lettered goals seem to be more general, with no end dates.
We often think of the ocean as fragmented spaces between nations. The ocean links us all by being one immense, living circulatory system. It connects cultures and countries together by allowing for transportation of goods and services, as well as tourism around the world. The problem with the current, disintegrated system is that by default there are communication and regulatory challenges embedded within it. As such, it has minimal regulatory structures, and benefits nations with stronger technology and financial resources. Let’s face it, when it comes to the ocean, we really are only as strong as our weakest link. As such, the need to manage ocean related activities that are fair for all and share the bounty of the high seas with a common global heritage needs to be accentuated. The idea behind this goal is to take care of the little guy – for equity among nations, especially including Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDC), to have a chance to take advantage of the high seas. Too often, it’s the big, powerful, resource rich nations that exploit the wealth of the high seas. This leads to environmental devastation from overfishing practices and such, leaving no room for SIDS and LDC to take advantage of these resources that would be beneficial for their economic growth and development. Not only wealthy countries should have the convenience and capacities to profit from the high seas. Further, SIDS manages sizeable ocean spaces that are of global importance. Their lack of access to technology for sustainable practices prohibits their ability to regulate and preserve vital marine resources. In the end, we all suffer. Transferring marine technology would aid the development of these countries by allowing them the opportunity for exploitation of marine resources and exploration of open oceans, with safe navigation practices that would also enhance the preservation of marine environments and subsequently prevent ocean related hazards and destruction.
One of the ways this target will be assessed is through the overall research and development budgets for marine technology, with the understanding that increased R & D budgets will drive economic growth through innovation.
Small scale artisanal fishers are more important than one may think. Small boats use traditional fishing practices to sustain local communities all over the world. The communities they supply are often developing nations that are dependent on their practices. However, their work is often trivialized by big governments that subsidize big fishing vessel practices. Most nations abide by the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) to manage overfishing and illegal fishing practices. However, it’s the big fishing vessels with large government subsidies that take up most of the yield, sweeping up marine life and destroying ecosystems in their wake.
Small artisanal fishermen are left with little resources to go on. Their rights and protections are up for debate; it’s often hard to ensure their practices are recognized and respected. This goal would aim to ensure these fishers gain dignity and respect by having the ability, and are encouraged, to participate in decision making processes. It further seeks to publicize how important their work is to national economies and food security in developing nations. In doing so, it hopes to make sure that poverty and food insecurity for these fishers and the communities they supply do not persist, and they are able to be integrated into the fishing community in sustainable and conflict free ways.
To ensure its success, this goal would be guided by the continuation of policy and legal framework to protect small scale fishery rights.
UNCLOS stands for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is the overarching international law that governs our ocean, particularly the waters outside the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). (The EEZ is the 200 miles out from a country’s land base, and UNCLOS recognizes the rights of a country to establish jurisdiction of artificial structures, research, resources and environmental protection.) UNCLOS is important for many reasons; it ensures the safety and peace between nations, friendly passage between nations’ waters for commerce, expeditions and other purposes. UCLOS also ensures the continuation of sustainable development practices between all abiding nations in use of the high seas.
It’s no doubt that we need to enhance the sustainable use of oceans and their resources. One very important way this is going to be done is through UNCLOS. It provides the legal framework in which nations must abide by. It establishes ways for nations to dissolve disputes and ways countries can continue to effectively collaborate so that everyone can be successful in their practices. Additionally, in the case of new institutions, UNCLOS helps them to determine the best practices. For example, it helped the institution of Seabed Authority determine the best practices for regulating seabed mining.
This index will track the effectiveness of certain international institutions on delivering official annual reports on their progress for the SDGs through legal, policy and established agendas. These reports outline potential options for ways nations can improve rules consistent with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. These reports monitor the delivery and approach by nations to assess whether international rules are being considered, and whether the SDG targets are being achieved.