By Ana Sofia Lorda.
The ocean sustains all life on Earth, yet its health continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate. 35% of all marine fish stocks are currently overfished (FAO, 2021); 20-35% of the world’s mangroves have been destroyed (Goldberg et al., 2020) and over 400 dead zones - coastal waters too low in oxygen to sustain life - exist worldwide (Rabotyagov et al., 2014). There is an urgent need to work together to restore ocean health and bring back its vibrant life, which supports millions of livelihoods and provides goods and services that are critical for human well-being.
The theme for this year’s World Oceans Day (Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean) stresses the importance of working collectively and strengthening collaboration with organizations and initiatives for a common goal, as well as mainstreaming ocean conservation and restoration in the sustainability and biodiversity agendas. Instead of addressing the most pressing threats to marine life on a case-by-case basis or in isolation, a more integrated approach whereby threats and their interactions with different actors in the seascape are analyzed and prioritized could have a greater impact on ocean protection and management.
We envision two ways in which the HCV Network can actively contribute towards collective action for the ocean: 1) by identifying priority coastal and marine areas for intervention, and 2) by promoting more accountability and coordination between stakeholders in the land-sea interface.
HCV Screening in the Chiloense seascape
The seascape of the Chiloense Ecoregion, stretching from the Reloncavi Sound to Taitao Peninsula, Chile is home to High Conservation Values (HCV) such as the blue whale, the Chilean dolphin and Peale’s dolphin. It also harbors kelp forests - highly productive coastal ecosystems associated with temperate waters that act as carbon sinks and mitigate climate change.
Industrial fishing and intensive salmon farming dominate the Chiloense seascape and contribute significantly to the local economy. Some threats associated with intensive salmon farming include use of antibiotics to promote fish growth, excessive release of nutrients to natural water bodies, and the introduction of invasive, non-native species.
The HCV Screening methodology launched by the HCV Network in 2019 could help identify threats to High Conservation Values and foster coordination between local stakeholders to implement concerted actions around conservation and ecosystem restoration.
HCV Screening could help spark conversations between key stakeholders in this seascape, including salmon farmers, who could implement management practices to conserve areas critical for biodiversity. Screening could identify the most degraded coastal areas for restoration and those areas that are important for the livelihoods and cultural identify of indigenous peoples.
Other benefits of the HCV Approach
In addition to identifying areas for conservation and restoration, generally using the HCV Approach in areas where land and sea intersect could help identify areas where terrestrial activities such as agriculture, aquaculture, coastal development, and mining, are having detrimental effects on coastal and marine ecosystems. Greater coordination amongst actors in these seascapes could help promote accountability amongst users that would otherwise be disengaged or would not be aware of the impacts of their operations beyond their immediate land boundaries.
Aquatic ecosystems are highly dynamic and most used management approaches do not consider the interconnectedness between land and sea-based activities. For instance, in a tropical landscape where crops are grown near water bodies, and where pesticides are used indiscriminately, nutrient run-off and sedimentation are common issues causing pollution of coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs and sea grass beds. Pesticides also affect the health of local communities and plantation workers. The HCV Approach, by bringing together environmental and social aspects of land management under the same umbrella, is an ideal tool to address these complex issues that can only be solved through multi-stakeholder collaboration across industries and ecosystems.
Ocean health depends greatly on freshwater ecosystem health, which in turn depends on good land management practices. To restore oceans, we must also look at what is happening on land.
For more information about our aquatic workstream, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
FAO. 2021. 2021 COFI Declaration for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture. Rome. https://doi.org/10.4060/cb3767en
Goldberg, L., Lagomasino, D., Thomas, N., Fatoyinbo, T. (2020). Global declines in human-driven mangrove loss. Global Change Biology. Vol. 26, Issue 10. Pages 5844-5855. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcb.15275
Rabotyagov, S. S., Kling, C. L., Gassman, P. W., Rabalais, N. N., & Turner, R. E. (2014). The Economics of Dead Zones: Causes, Impacts, Policy Challenges, and a Model of the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, 8(1), 58–79. doi:10.1093/reep/ret024