I. NOWPAP PROGRESS
1. NOWPAP marks 20 years of partnership with Japan’s marine conservation center
The UN Environment’s Northwest Pacific Action Plan marks 20 years of partnership with Japan’s marine conservation centre
At an event to mark the 20th anniversary of Japan’s Northwest Pacific Region Environmental Cooperation Center (NPEC), the UN Environment’s Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) voiced its commitment to strengthen its 20-year partnership with the Center to help steer regional implementation of ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Northwest Pacific Action Plan’s Medium-term Strategy 2018-2023.
Addressing the ‘Northwest Pacific Region Environmental Cooperation Center 20th Anniversary Symposium’ held in January in the Center’s home city of Toyama and attended by 120 members of the public, the UN Environment’s Northwest Pacific Action Plan’s Coordinator Lev Neretin highlighted how both entities have used the best available scientific knowledge to address pressing threats to the region’s marine and coastal environment over the last two decades.
These include pioneering efforts to deal with the now globally recognized problem of marine litter and a methodology for eutrophication assessment with the identification of more than 20 potential areas in the region affected by excessive nutrient pollution.
“The results of this work are being used by our regional and global partners to measure the progress of countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The increasing focus of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals through strong regional cooperation should bring us even closer together in using the best available knowledge, and building capacities to address old and new threats to the marine environment,” Neretin said.
“Environmental issues are closely connected with the daily lives of citizens, and they need to be tackled by national and regional actions,” said Governor of Toyama Takakazu Ishii in his opening remarks to the event. “Therefore, international cooperation is critical. Toyama Prefecture has been working successfully with the Northwest Pacific Region Environmental Cooperation Center and Northwest Pacific Action Plan on marine litter issues. We introduced a plastic bag ban in commercial stores in Toyama back in 2008, the first Prefecture to ban plastic bags in Japan.” A keynote presentation on plastic pollution in the marine environment was made by Professor Haruyuki Kanehiro of Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Chairman of Japan’s Ministry of Environment’s Experts’ Group on Marine Litter.
Presentations were also made by two high schools in Toyama and by the Toyama Prefecture authorities, as well as by the Northwest Pacific Region Environmental Cooperation Center.
Set up in 1999 by the Ministry of Environment, Japan, the Center has been hosting the Northwest Pacific Action Plan’s Special Monitoring and Coastal Environment Assessment Regional Activity Centre (CEARAC) for the last 20 years. The Activity Centre coordinates regional assessments of the state of the marine, coastal and associated freshwater environments, including marine biodiversity and land-based sources of pollution. It is developing new monitoring tools for seagrass distribution, and building regional remote sensing capacities.
2. Good ocean data science is crucial for protecting and nurturing the world’s oceans
Good ocean data science is vital for reversing the rapid decline in the health of our seas that threatens humanity and the planet, the UN Environment Northwest Pacific Regional Seas Programme told an international scientific forum in Tokyo, Japan, in February 2019, in preparation for the first UN Decade of Ocean Science.
The 18–19 February 2019 International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) XXV Scientific Conference, organized by the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and hosted by the Government of Japan, reviewed scientific preparedness and needs for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030). The Decade aims to strengthen scientific knowledge for the sustainable use of the largest planetary ecosystem.
“The UN Decade of Ocean Science is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the global expert community to define the concept of sustainability for the marine environment and communicate to policymakers and the public the importance of oceans for humanity,” Lev Neretin, Coordinator of the UN Environment Northwest Pacific Action Plan, told the conference.
“New knowledge, new forms of public-private partnerships and new forms of communication are needed to realize the mission of the Decade,” he added.
In a presentation to the expert gathering, Mr Neretin highlighted the contribution of the over four-decade-old UN Environment Regional Seas Programme to the sustainable management of the marine and coastal environment, a key goal of the 2030 Agenda.
An estimated 99 per cent of habitable marine areas lack basic biodiversity knowledge for their management and up to 1 million marine species could still be unknown to science. Ocean science has a less than 4 per cent share in global research and development investment.
The UN Environment and its Regional Seas Programme are developing indicators and reporting mechanisms for monitoring implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water.
Besides generating quality data from its monitoring of the regional marine and coastal environment and communicating this to policymakers and the public, the Northwest Pacific Action Plan coordinates regional implementation of the ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)
The United Nations has proclaimed a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) to support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the ocean.
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO has been tasked by the UN General Assembly to coordinate the Decade’s preparatory process working with the global ocean community to plan for the next ten years in ocean science and technology to deliver, together, the ocean we need for the future we want.
International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) Programme
The International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) programme was established in 1961 to enhance marine research, exploitation and development, by facilitating exchange of oceanographic data and information among countries and generating data and information. There are over 80 oceanographic data centres in as many countries collecting and ensuring ocean data quality, and making these available to countries.
3. Northwest Pacific Regional Seas Programme to support ‘Clean Beach City Alliance’ against marine litter
Qingdao City in Shandong province of the People’s Republic of China, and Taean County in South Chungcheong Do province of the Republic of Korea are popular coastal resorts about 600 km apart, on opposite ends of the Yellow Sea, and known for their clean beaches and clear seas.
Shandong and South Chungcheong Do provinces are partners in an environmental initiative that brings together local authorities, businesses and civil society to keep their beaches free of marine litter—a threat to the seas and coasts of East Asia.
Acknowledging the primary role of local governments in protecting the coastal and marine environment, a meeting of a United Nations project to protect the Yellow Sea marine ecosystem held in Qingdao in March 2019 has now agreed to set up a ‘Clean Beach City Alliance’ linking coastal cities in China, Japan and the Republic of Korea with support from the UN Environment Northwest Pacific Action Plan.The 3rd Meetings of the Management, Science and Technical Panel and Interim Commission Council of the United Nations Development Programme / Global Environment Facility Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem project has sought the cooperation of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan, which is promoting regional cooperation against marine litter in Northwest Pacific seas since 2008.
“Local governments are and should be the primary players in reducing marine litter through legislation and establishment of comprehensive policy framework. These enabling conditions will provide a conducive platform to engage business, academia, non-governmental organizations, youth and other stakeholders to take joint actions within their respective areas of expertise,” says a background paper on the ‘Clean Beach City Alliance’ presented at the meeting.
The Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem meeting agreed to identify one city in Shandong, Taean County as well as a city in Japan to join the Alliance. Participating cities will host annual forums on the prevention and control of marine debris pollution and work together to tackle marine litter by involving local governments, business, youth and non-governmental organizations.
Northwest Pacific Action Plan Programme Officer Ning Liu told the Qingdao meeting that the Alliance would benefit from marine litter guidelines for the region developed by the UN Environment Regional Seas Programme and adopted by the Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem project.
The Northwest Pacific Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter promotes cooperation among China, Japan, Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation to prevent, reduce and remove marine litter from Northwest Pacific coastal areas and waters.
The Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem is one of 66 large marine ecosystems in the world. The project was launched in 2005 to address environmental threats to the Yellow Sea, which covers 400,000 km2 between China and the Korean peninsula.
An estimated 4.8–12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the world’s oceans annually. The seas surrounding East Asia are one of the global hotspots of marine litter pollution and are assessed to have 27 times more microplastics (plastic particles less than 5 mm) per square kilometre than other world seas.
Northwest Pacific Action Plan marine litter and microplastics
4. Marine scientists from the Northwest Pacific region review targets for assessing ocean health
Marine scientists from China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation met in Vladivostok, Russian Federation in March 2019 to discuss ways of assessing the health of the seas shared by the four countries in order to support regional progress towards ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals.
The meeting, organized by the Pollution Monitoring Regional Activity Centre (POMRAC) of the Northwest Pacific Action Plan of the four-decades-old UN Environment Regional Seas Programme, discussed six most applicable indicators related to monitoring marine ecological quality in the region and agreed on the targets for the four of them, aligned with environmental Sustainable Development Goals.
They also suggested Jiaozhou Bay in China, Toyama Bay and/or Hakata Bay in Japan, Masan Bay in Republic of Korea and Russia’s Amursky Bay as designated areas for testing of the targets related to nutrient, chlorophyll ‘a’ and contaminant concentration levels in water and sediments, and marine litter.
Anatoly Kachur, Director of Pollution Monitoring Regional Activity Center said that the testing will make it easier for the countries to monitor the state of the marine and coastal environment.
The Vladivostok expert meeting, held at the Far Eastern Branch, Russian Academy of Science, followed up on the five ecological quality objectives (EcoQOs) for the Northwest Pacific region agreed on by the four countries in 2014, namely ensuring that:
- Biological and habitat diversity are not changed significantly due to anthropogenic pressure
- Alien species are at levels that do not adversely alter ecosystems
- Adverse effects of eutrophication are absent
- Contaminants cause no significant impact on coastal and marine ecosystems and human health
- Marine litter does not adversely affect coastal and marine environments
In December 2018, Northwest Pacific Action Plan member countries tasked the Pollution Monitoring Regional Activity Centre with developing targets for measuring progress towards these regional ecological quality objectives in line with the global Sustainable Development Goals indicators. The Pollution Monitoring Regional Activity Centre analysed national targets related to the regional ecological quality objectives for identifying targets aligned with the indicators for ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals.
The Vladivostok meeting agreed on the following targets fro monitoring the quality of the marine and coastal environment:
- Nutrient concentrations in the water column within the designated area do not exceed baseline values or national standards
- Chlorophyll ‘a’ concentrations do not exceed baseline values
- Contaminant concentrations in water and surface sediments do not exceed existing national standards over a five-year period
- A decreasing trend in the amount of marine litter washed ashore over a five-year period
Marine scientists from the four countries will test these targets by observing actual monitoring data in designated areas in 2020–2021.
5. NOWPAP launches a video on marine litter and microplastics in seas of the Northwest Pacific
We have entered an ‘Age of Plastic’ where plastics may outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. One of the most densely populated regions of the world, the Northwest Pacific, is the global hotspot of marine litter and microplastics pollution. Northwest Pacific Action Plan (or NOWPAP), one of the eighteen Regional Seas Programmes of the UN Environment, has been responding to the threat of marine litter in the region since 2005. Through a regional framework of cooperation - the NOWPAP Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter - China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Russia are working on the monitoring, reduction and removal of marine litter and microplastics along the coasts and in seas of the NW Pacific.
6. MERRAC participation in IMO Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response 6th Session
The IMO Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) held its sixth session from 18 to 22 February 2019 at the London headquarters, chaired by Mr. Sveinung Oftedal (Norway). The session was attended by delegations from Member Governments and an Associated Member of IMO, specialized agencies and by observers from international and non-governmental organizations.
MERRAC was invited to brief the IMO PPR Sub-Committee on the practical use of its online pollution reporting system (POLREP) for real-time exchange of information between competent national authorities during the Sanchi spill incident in early 2018 and was represented at the meeting by its consultant Ms. Siyeon Lee.
The Sub-Committee on PPR deals with all matters relating to pollution prevention and response within IMO remit, ranging from all annexes of the MARPOL Convention to the control and management of harmful aquatic organisms in ship ballast water and sediments as well as biofouling, anti-fouling systems, pollution preparedness, response and cooperation for oil and hazardous and noxious substances, and safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships.
In a document submitted through the IMO secretariat, MERRAC briefed the IMO Sub-Committee on the NOWPAP Regional Oil and HNS Spill Contingency Plan (RCP), NOWPAP joint communications and oil and HNS spill response exercises (DELTA and BRAVO) as well as RAP MALI, during a discussion on IMO cooperation with the UN Environment Regional Seas Programme in implementing the OPRC convention and the OPRC-HNS protocol. MERRAC was selected as one of the best examples of regional cooperation in marine pollution preparedness and response along with REMPEC and RAC/REMPEITC-Caribe.
MERRAC also participated in the Drafting Group on OPRC Guidelines which is developing the ‘Guide on the Implementation of the OPRC Convention and the OPRC-HNS Protocol’. The Drafting Group meeting was attended by delegations of 18 governments, 2 United Nations specialized agencies, 6 observers from intergovernmental organization.
The participation of MERRAC in the PPR 6th session and sharing of information on its work was a big opportunity to showcase to a global audience, NOWPAP achievements in promoting regional cooperation in protecting the ocean.
7. Towards "Blue Economy" transformation in the NOWPAP Region
By Yuko Iemura, edited by Lev Neretin
The “blue economy” is relatively new concept that has emerged since the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 (2). Although there is no globally shared definition, the term “blue economy” refers to the environmentally sustainable development of the ocean-related economic activities 3. “A sustainable ocean economy emerges when economic activity is in balance with the long-term capacity of ocean ecosystems to support this activity and remain resilient and healthy.”4
The concept of blue economy has emerged because the expansion of “traditional” ocean business resulted in excessive use, over-exploitation and loss of natural ocean assets, including marine biodiversity. In response to those negative impacts, society at large needs a new approach supporting responsible businesses that could maximize economic and social benefits while protecting and re-building environmental assets. Although global transformation towards blue economy would require enormous amount of effort in investments, new technologies, and innovative ideas, taking into account the scale of ocean economy, potential and long-term benefits for its growth and new employment could surpass these initial investments over time.
Which commercial activities are associated with the blue economy? The commonly cited sectors are renewable ocean energy, fisheries and aquaculture, marine tourism, and commercial activities associated with shipping and ports development. For three NOWPAP countries alone, the ocean economy value added is estimated conservatively at few percentages of each country’s GDP (Table 1 below).
Table 1: Scale of Blue Economy Sectors in NOWPAP Countries
The ocean-based renewable energy is being developed to meet with the global goals of climate change5. Since the non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels result in CO2 and other greenhouse gases emissions, the global action is required to scale up the use of renewable energy to mitigate global warming. Some countries moved by adding marine renewable energy into their national energy mix. In the NOWPAP countries, new energy facilities and R&D center were established to research non-renewable energy.
China made a lot of investments in R&D and built a Chinese Marine Energy Center (CMEC) as well as installing a great number of offshore wind farms to serve for their national demands of energy6. RO Korea has developed tidal barrage in Sihwa Lake, which is the largest tidal energy plant in the world7. Japan and Korea developed renewable ocean energy plant like Goseong OTEC/SWAC plants8 (Figure 1 below).
Figure 1: Goseong OTEC/SWAC plants
Since Asian continent is the largest consumer of seafood from fisheries and aquaculture, the latter is an important blue economy sector in the NOWPAP region (ref: Fish consumption in Asia has doubled during the last three decades9). Especially, the growth rate of capture fisheries in China is increasing with an average annual rate of 9% from 1990-2012 (Table 2).
Table 2: Fisheries capture data in the NOWPAP countries (excl. Russia)
Market demand became a driver for over-fishing as well as resulted in the increased discards of fisheries products due to unsustainable fishing practices. To improve and maintain fish stocks and ensure food security, Asian countries increased aquaculture production, which now accounts for 80% of the global aquaculture production10. While aquaculture replaced collapsed fish stocks and improved food security, the sector is not without negative environmental impacts, including increased nutrient and litter pollution, introduction of invasive species and others11. To mitigate environmental impacts, countries explored new innovative practices such as multi-trophic aquaculture12. Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) is the new aquaculture practice using natural ecosystem, which co-culture complementing species like seaweed with shrimp so that one species can process the wastes from another.13 In another aspect, sustainable fisheries rely on the increasing transparency of surveillance and reporting of the fish. These regulatory issues were improved by applying sophisticated technologies to comply with national, regional and global legal frameworks, including addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Diet changes and consumption at the market could also become a driver transforming fisheries and aquaculture sectors towards sustainability.
The dramatic expansion of the tourism sector in the region transformed both national and local economies. However, tourism and recreational activities also could bring negative environmental impacts such as pollution, waste, and water shortages. In addition, marine ecosystems and habitats are at the risk of degradation because of the over-development of hard infrastructures such as airports, marinas, resorts, and hotels14. International tourism could generate positive impacts to local coastal communities by bringing employment opportunities and revenues. For example, coastal tourism in China had a value of US$172.63 billion. Marine tourism and recreation in China constitute about 1/3 of their core ocean economy added value. The employment in coastal tourism has reached to 1,306,000, which is 3.7% of marine-related industries in China15(Figure 2).
Figure 2: Ocean Economy in China
To make tourism sector sustainable, it is important to manage the development of tourism infrastructures and recreational facilities in such a way that they have minimum environmental costs while providing economic benefits for local economies.
Shipping and ports sector are noticeable in Asia where 7 out of 9 world’s biggest seaports are located, including Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong16. With the growing globalized economy, shipments between countries are expected to triple in the next 25 years17. NOWPAP countries have the world biggest seaports; one of them is in Busan, RO Korea. In Korea, the ship-building sector accounts for 42% of the national ocean economy. Besides, marine transportation is used for almost all (99%) of Korean cargo in importing raw materials and exporting finished goods (Table 3).
Table 3: Ocean economy in RO Korea
Shipping and ports development could have negative impacts on the coastal areas, including chemical and noise pollution from the construction of port facilities, shipping operations, and accidental oil spills. In addition, discharge of ballast waters could transfer invasive species and compromise the health of coastal ecosystems. Shipping sector also contributes to emissions of greenhouse gases which escalates global warming18. Since shipping and ports operation involve a variety of stakeholders and businesses, partnerships and networking are the important enabling factors in transitioning this sector towards blue economy. Technology development is another key factor to minimize environmental damages caused by shipping without affecting the performance of businesses.
To harness the blue economy, it is imperative to have multi-level cooperation and partnerships among public and private sector, academia and civil society. International cooperation can contribute to a large-scale global reform towards building sustainable blue economy. It should foster the development of integrated strategic action plans and effective ocean management frameworks using a holistic approach19. The networking and collaboration between technology developers and users could accelerate the sharing of knowledge and solutions that can be particularly useful in the field of research and development and technology transfer20.
Large scale investment is urgently needed in “greening” ocean economy sectors. Supporting transformation towards blue economy would require unprecedented level of international cooperation and collaboration at multiple levels and with various sectors connected directly and indirectly to the ocean. For NOWPAP countries whose economies are closely connected to coasts and the ocean, transforming towards sustainable blue economy will be critical for making their societies, economies and shared environment sustainable and resilient.
1 This report is a part of the NOWPAP RCU project “Rapid assessment of emerging environmental issues of policy relevance in the NOWPAP region” (2018-2019)
2 UN-Habitat(2018). “background paper on BLUE ECONOMY AND CITIES.” p.8
3 PEMSEA(2015). “Blue Economy for Business in East Asia: Towards an Integrated Understanding of Blue Economy.” p.28
4 Economist Intelligence Unit (2015). “The Blue Economy: Growth, Opportunity and a Sustainable Ocean Economy.” Briefing Paper for the World Ocean Summit 2015.
5 PEMSEA(2018). “Policy Brief for the Blue Economy - Renewable Ocean Energy.” p.1
6 PEMSEA(2018). “Policy Brief for the Blue Economy - Renewable Ocean Energy.” p.4
7 PEMSEA (2018). “State of Oceans and Coasts RO Korea.”
8 PEMSEA(2018). “Policy Brief for the Blue Economy - Renewable Ocean Energy.” p.5
9 PEMSEA (2015). “Blue Economy for Business in East Asia: Towards an Integrated Understanding of Blue Economy.” p.33
10 PEMSEA (2018). “Policy Brief for the Blue Economy Sustainable Fishing and Aquaculture.” p.1
11 IPBES (2018). “The IPBES regional assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services for Asia and the Pacific.” Karki, M., Senaratna Sellamuttu, S., Okayasu, S., and Suzuki, W. (eds). Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Bonn, Germany. p.612
12 PEMSEA (2018). “Policy Brief for the Blue Economy Sustainable Fishing and Aquaculture.” p.5
13 PIRSA (2015). “Feasibility study for integrated multitrophic aquaculture in southern Australia.” Wiltshire, K. H., Tanner, J. E., Gurgel, C. F. D. and Deveney, M. R. p.4
14 PEMSEA (2018). “Policy Brief for the Blue Economy - Sustainable Tourism.” p. 1
15 PEMSEA (2018). “State of Oceans and Coasts China.”
16 PEMSEA (2015). “Blue Economy for Business in East Asia: Towards an Integrated Understanding of Blue Economy.” p.35
17 PEMSEA (2018). “Policy Brief for the Blue Economy - Sustainable Shipping and Ports.” p. 1
18 PEMSEA (2018). “Policy Brief for the Blue Economy - Sustainable Shipping and Ports.” p. 2
19 WWF (2015). “Reviving the Oceans Economy: The Case for Action—2015.” p. 44
20 WWF (2015). “Reviving the Oceans Economy: The Case for Action—2015.” p. 48
II. Digest of Marine Environmental News
Beyond a paper exercise: giving teeth to marine protected areas
Pair trawling is when two ships travel in parallel several hundred metres apart towing a huge net which indiscriminately scoops up marine animals in its path.
Our planet’s oceans are under ever increasing pressure from overfishing and other human activities. We are consuming 31 per cent of fish stocks at unsustainable levels, largely due to illegal, unreported or unregulated activities. We are using the ocean’s resources faster than they can naturally recover. There is a widening gap between the declining health of the ocean and the growing demand for their resources.
Oceans provide nourishment for over three billion people and absorb 30 per cent of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and 90 per cent of the heat from climate change. We need to look after them.
UN Clean Seas Initiative gets support from Sport Organisations
Promoting Sustainable Development has become a key focus of all major international sport organisations. Sustainability is one of the three pillars of Olympics Agenda 2020. International Olympic Committee (IOC’s) Olympic Sustainability Strategy supports the commitment of global sports to contribute actively to global sustainability in line with the vision: “Building a better world through sport”. In accordance with these objectives, IOC and other major sporting bodies have extended its support to the UN Clean Seas Initiative. Clean Seas Initiative was launched by UN Environment in February 2017 with the aim of engaging governments, the general public and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic pollution. Over the next five years, this campaign aims to address the root-cause of marine litter by targeting the production and consumption of single-use plastic.
The IOC signed up to the Clean Seas initiative in June 2018. As the leader of the Olympic Movement, the IOC has been working closely with International Sports Federations (IFs), National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and athletes, to encourage them to also come on board. Eleven IFs, four NOCs, and three IOC commercial partners (TOPs) – Coca Cola, Dow Chemicals and Procter & Gamble – have joined the initiative so far.
UNEP, Japan Announce Marine Litter Initiative
4 March 2019: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Government of Japan have announced an initiative on tackling marine plastic litter in Southeast Asia and India. The initiative focuses on tackling plastic pollution at its source.
The initiative titled, ‘Promotion of Countermeasures Against Marine Plastic Litter in Southeast Asia and India,’ will develop a model for plastic leakage and monitor leakage hotspots along the Ganges and Mekong rivers. The initiative will also enhance information and knowledge on how to develop and implement countermeasures against marine plastic litter. Selected cities and local and provincial governments in India will also receive support to stop plastic pollution.
Japan to introduce offshore sanctuary system to protect deep sea marine life
TOKYO -- The government is set to introduce an offshore sanctuary system to protect deep sea marine life through a legal revision to regulate deep ocean development, as well as require licenses for fishing and mining in some areas, it has been learned.
In regard to the move, a bill to revise the Nature Conservation Act was approved by the Cabinet on March 1 and is set to be submitted to the current session of the Diet. The Ministry of the Environment eyes an offshore area near the Ogasawara Islands about 1,000 kilometers south of Tokyo as the first sanctuary to be designated under the new scheme.
In the new sanctuary system, people planning to conduct mineral resource exploration, mineral mining or dragnet fishing must report their plans in advance as those activities could adversely affect the deep sea ecosystem. Furthermore, licensing will be required to engage in those activities in special sanctuaries.
UN raises awareness of marine species' role in sustainable development
The United Nations on Friday raised awareness about the "crucial importance" of marine species to sustainable development on the occasion of World Wildlife Day.
Under the theme of "Life below water: for people and planet" this year, the world day, which falls on March 3, was celebrated at an event co-organized by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), UN Development Programme and UN Environment Programme.
"Marine species provide indispensable ecosystem services. Plankton enrich the atmosphere with oxygen, and more than three billion people depend on marine coastal biodiversity for sustenance and livelihoods," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his message to the day, which was read at the event by CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero.
ADB, UNEP Report Examines Challenges in SDG Implementation on SDGs 12, 14 and 15
January 2019: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report that shares insights from a regional stocktake on SDG implementation in the region. The report also aims to present a compendium of tools to help developing countries implement the environmental dimensions of the SDGs.
The report titled, ‘Strengthening the Environmental Dimensions of the SDGs in Asia and the Pacific: Tools Compendium,’ is the result of an effort by the ADB to understand the reasons behind limited progress on SDGs 12 (responsible consumption and production), 14 (life below water) and 15 (life on land) in the region, all closely linked with SDG 13 (climate action). Through a stocktaking exercise, the ADB found that many countries in the region have made commitments to the environment and have been successful in raising awareness on the SDGs, but focus on sector-based approaches that ignore the interlinkages among the Goals and do not result in meaningful action.
S. Korea to Allocate 60.3 bln Won in 2019 to Create ‘Underwater Forests’
South Korea’s oceans ministry said Tuesday it will allocate 60.3 billion won (US$53.8 million) this year to create so-called underwater forests to improve the country’s marine ecosystem.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said it plans to establish underwater forests with a combined size of 3,130 hectares.
“The project aims to revitalize the ocean, which has been hurt by climate change along with excessive fishing,” the ministry said.
Opinion: China to adopt global regulations for ballast water management
In October 2018, China ratified International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Ballast Water Management (BWM) Convention which came into force in September of 2017. The BWM Convention aims to prevent the spread of harmful and invasive aquatic species from one region to another by establishing standards and introducing global regulations to control ships' ballast water and sediments.
To ensure safety and stability, ships in international traffic take ballast water onboard and discharge it into the sea during voyages. Untreated ballast water can contain aquatic invasive organisms and species and transfer them to the local ecosystem with devastating consequences.
FAO Report Analyzes Options for SDG Indicator on Fisheries’ Contribution to GDP
8 February 2019: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has released a technical paper that aims to support improved understanding and measurement of aquaculture and fisheries’ contribution to gross domestic product (GDP). SDG 14 (life below water) includes an indicator that intends to measure the value of sustainable fisheries.
SDG indicator 14.7.1 focuses on sustainable fisheries as a percentage of GDP in small island developing States (SIDS), Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and all countries. The UN Inter-Agency and Expert Group on the SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) has classified indicator 14.7.1 as a Tier III indicator, meaning that it requires methodological development. The FAO publication therefore aims to contribute to improving the methodology for understanding and measuring indicator 14.7.1.
G20’s Osaka Summit to Grapple with Technology Governance
11 March 2019: The 2019 Group of 20 (G20) summit in Osaka, Japan will focus on harnessing the power of technological innovation as an overarching theme and cross-cutting debate topic. Japan’s representative for the G20 (“Sherpa”), Koji Tomita, briefed the UN General Assembly on preparations for the Summit, stressing that all plans are still preliminary.
The G20 summit will convene in Osaka, Japan, from 28-29 June 2019. Introducing Tomita’s briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on 11 March 2019, UNGA President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces and UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs head Liu Zhenmin, who is also the UN’s sherpa to the G20, highlighted the G20’s importance in the world economy, the member countries of which represent 80% of global trade and GDP. Espinosa stressed, “what the G20 does matters.” She also suggested that the Osaka summit may be remembered as the one that sparks global data governance, saying this issue is crucial for the 2030 Agenda.
GEF LME:LEARN Releases Toolkits to Support Coastal, Marine Management
31 January 2019: The Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) LME:LEARN project has released five toolkits to support the marine community in managing Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs). The toolkits aim to promote best practices and innovative approaches in integrated coastal management, marine protected areas (MPAs), marine spatial planning (MSP) and coastal and marine climate change adaptation projects.
The ‘Large Marine Ecosystem Strategic Approach Toolkit’ presents the GEF’s revised strategic approach to designing an LME project by incorporating a five-module ecosystem approach on productivity, fish and fisheries, pollution and ecosystem health, socioeconomics and governance. The toolkit underscores the strategic importance of the transboundary diagnostic analysis (TDA) process, strategic action programmes and national actions plans and recommendations for strengthening these processes.
IOC-UNESCO Provides Update on SDG 14 Indicator Development
31 January 2019: The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) has shared an update on progress in measuring four of the targets for SDG 14 (life below water). Two of the indicators for these targets require methodological development, and two require additional data.
IOC-UNESCO is the custodian agency for the indicators for SDG target 14.3 on ocean acidification, and SDG target 14.a on marine scientific research, and it provides technical support and advice to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which is working to develop measurement methodologies for SDG target 14.1 on marine pollution and SDG target 14.2 on coastal eutrophication (excessive loading of water with nutrients).
IPBES Previews 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity
7 February 2019: The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has provided information on the key aspects covered by the first global assessment on biodiversity since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2015, as well as on the structure of the upcoming report.
Prepared by 150 international experts from 50 countries, the IPBES Global Assessment draws on nearly 15,000 references, including scientific papers and government information. The publication aims to inform better policies and actions in the coming decade. IPBES notes that the report is the first global assessment ever to systematically examine and include indigenous and local knowledge, issues, and priorities.
Measuring Progress: Towards Achieving the Environmental Dimension of the SDGS
Only 23% of the environment-related SDG indicators are on track to meet the target if current trends continue. For 68%, there is not enough data to assess progress and for 9% there is not progress toward achieving the target. Specifically, progress has been made on all 11 environment-related SDGs indicators related to policy, financial and institutional processes with available data; there has been mixed progress in improving access to environmental resources and reducing the impacts of environmental degradation on human health and food security; and there is either no data or no progress towards all 12 of the SDGs targets related to the state of the environment. In order to achieve the environmental dimension of sustainable development, there is a need to scale up environmental action and also to improve environmental monitoring and analysis.
New ‘hotspots’ tool pinpoints unsustainable consumption and production
UN Environment launched in March 2019 a new tool that allows countries to see “hotspots” of unsustainable practices in consumption and production.
The tool, known as the Sustainable Consumption and Production Hotspots Analysis Tool, is an online application that analyses the environmental and socio-economic performance of 171 countries over the past 25 years to provide scientific evidence of areas where improvement can be made.
The tool builds on a powerful national footprint calculator that combines environmental and socio-economic data with trade information. It allows the tracing of environmental pressures and impacts along the supply chain of the goods and services consumed within a given country, an essential dimension of our globalized economy.
Ocean Database Features Updated Marine Status and Trends
29 January 2019: The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) released an updated version of its ocean database. The database’s new infrastructure and technology enable new data to be immediately processed, integrated into the database and made publicly available.
OBIS is a global, open-access data and information clearinghouse on marine biodiversity for science, conservation and sustainable development. OBIS aims to be a comprehensive gateway to global ocean biodiversity and biogeographic data and information necessary to tackle coastal and ocean concerns. Over 20 OBIS nodes around the world connect 500 institutions from 56 countries that have provided over 45 million observations of nearly 120,000 marine species. Information from OBIS includes data on the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine organization, as a contribution to the Aichi Biodiversity Target 19 (on improving, sharing and applying knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity by 2020) as well as other global processes like the UN World Ocean Assessment (WOA).
UNEP’s Annual Report Highlights Advances in Phasing Out Single-use Plastics, Cutting Cooling and Heating Emissions
7 March 2019: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) published its 2018 Annual Report, which details UNEP’s work on: climate change; cutting cooling and heating emissions; disasters and conflicts; building resilience and peace in Darfur, Sudan; protecting a peatland in Central Africa; environmental governance; chemicals and waste; resource efficiency; and environment under review.
The report was released in advance of the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), which convened from 11-15 March 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya.
World Plastics Council welcomes new UN resolution on marine litter
The World Plastics Council has welcomed a UN resolution which calls for increased efforts to combat marine litter.
The 6 Dec UNEA3 resolution, by the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA),concluded that waste minimisation and environmentally sound solid waste management should be given “the highest priority” in efforts to address marine litter.
Welcoming the decision, chairman of the World Plastics Council Abdulrahman Al-Fageeh said the resolution added to the “fast-growing global consensus” that investments should be made to improve municipal solid waste management.
UNEP Shares Options for Continued Work on Marine Litter and Microplastics in Advance of UNEA-4
February 2019: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has shared a progress report on the work of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics. The report is one of several that UNEP has released in advance of the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4).
The report titled, ‘Progress in the Work of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics Established by Resolution 3/7’ (UNEP/EA.4/12), notes that the UNEP Secretariat convened two meetings of the Expert Group in 2018 to examine the barriers to and options for combating marine plastic litter and microplastics from all sources, especially land-based sources. The expert group also discussed: international, regional and national response options to marine litter and microplastics, including innovative approaches and actions and voluntary and legally binding governance strategies and approaches; environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of different responses options; and the feasibility and effectiveness of different response options.
UNEP Report Finds Positive Trend Towards Marine Litter Reduction
February 2019: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has shared a report analyzing voluntary commitments made in support of SDG 14 (life below water) and efforts to address marine litter and microplastics. The report is one of several that UNEP has released in advance of the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4).
The report titled, ‘Analysis of Voluntary Commitments Targeting Marine Litter and Microplastics Pursuant to Resolution 3/7’ (UNEP/EA.4/11), analyzes commitments in the context of the UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14, the Our Ocean Conference, the UN Sustainable Development Platform, the Clean Seas campaign and the Environment Assembly portal for voluntary reporting relating to marine litter. The commitments analyzed focus on two tracks: targeted interventions that specifically address marine litter and microplastics, such as improved management of land-based waste; and system-wide actions to help shift the economy away from plastics and fossil fuel use towards a circular economy of reuse, remanufacturing and recycling of plastics, such as behavioral change and societal transformation.
Ministers and Environment Authorities of Asia Pacific Prepare for UNEA-4
25 January 2019: The Third Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities of Asia Pacific brought approximately 575 participants together, including 26 ministers and vice-ministers of environment, the President of Sri Lanka, the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, and the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, to focus on the theme of upcoming fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4): ‘Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP).’
Delegates at the meeting, which took place from 23-25 January 2019, in Singapore, discussed: national actions and experiences with implementing solutions to SCP; progress in the region on attaining the SDGs; and draft UNEA resolutions proposed by Asia-Pacific countries. The draft resolutions address issues such as marine litter, ecosystem protection, sustainable infrastructure, dust storms, and waste management.
UNEA-4 Calls for Strengthened Approach to Sustainable Nitrogen Management
15 March 2019: During the closing plenary of the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), delegates adopted a resolution calling for a coordinated and collaborative approach to sustainable nitrogen (N) management.
The resolution titled, ‘Sustainable Nitrogen Management’ (UNEP/EA.4/L.16), recognizes the multiple pollution threats resulting from anthropogenic reactive nitrogen, with adverse effects on the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments and contributing to air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and highlights ways to better manage nitrogen.
UNEA-4 to Review Roadmap Towards Pollution-free Planet
February 2019: In response to a decision adopted by the third session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3) in 2017, delegates at the upcoming Assembly session will consider a proposed implementation plan for realizing the vision of a pollution-free planet by 2030. The plan covers an initial three-year period coinciding with the current UNEP medium-term strategy and related programme of work.
YSLME holds the 3rd Meetings of the Management, Science and Technical Panel (MSTP) and the Interim YSLME Commission Council (ICC) in Qingdao, China
The Third Meetings of the Management, Science and Technical Panel (MSTP) and Interim Commission Council (ICC) of the Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem (YSLME) were held in Qingdao, China, on 12-14 March 2019. The meeting was participated by 61 representatives from the governments of China, RO Korea, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), members of the Regional Working Groups (RWGs) from the two countries and observers from academia, regional seas programs and NGOs.
Highlights during the opening of the meeting include reconfirmed commitments to the transboundary diagnostic analysis (TDA) and Strategic Action Programme (SAP) as the strategic planning framework for ecosystem-based management of the YSLME, and the iterated urgent need to consider post-YSLME Project arrangements before official project closure. Prioritization of activities was emphasized, to achieve the objectives of restoring the ecosystem carrying capacity and consolidation of the regional environmental governance framework within the limited timeframe.
Waste plastic exports squeezed by Chinese ban brought Serious Impact to Japan
A Chinese embargo on scrap plastic imports has undercut shipments from developed nations to a low not seen in more than 13 years, a Nikkei study shows.
But because the waste is still being produced at the same levels, exporting countries are stuck with an accumulating and increasingly expensive problem.
Waste plastic exports from Japan, the U.S. and the European Union dropped to 1.7 million tons during the latter half of 2018, a level last recorded in the first half of 2005. Since 2009, those nations have shipped out between 3 million and 3.6 million tons of used plastics every six months, but the volume skidded to 2.31 million tons in the first half of last year.
Marine Worms Are Eating And Breaking Down Plastic Pollution
On land, earthworms chow down on dead leaves and fungi and poop out tiny bits of organic matter that enrich the soil. In the sea, it turns out that some marine worms chew on floating plastic and poop out microplastics—a troubling discovery brought to light in new research by scientists in South Korea.
The Korean study, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, found on average six to seven worms per buoy. And a single bristle worm can produce hundreds of thousands particles of microplastics in a single year.
S. Korea, Russia Hold Talks on Fishing Quotas
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said it held the 28th commission meeting with its Russian counterpart in Moscow for three days since Wednesday.
During the talks, the two sides negotiated the quotas for squid and fish such as pollack, cod, mackerel and pike that South Korean vessels will be allowed to catch from Russia's exclusive economic zone in 2019. Terms of fishing operations were also discussed.
Russia Will Free 97 Orcas, Belugas Held in Cramped ‘Whale Jail’ Since Last Summer
Russian authorities have agreed to initiate the release of 10 orcas and 87 belugas currently housed in overcrowded pens at a so-called “whale jail” off of the country’s southeastern coast.
Initially captured by four Russian companies hoping to sell the animals to marine theme parks in China, the whales have been confined at Srednyaya Bay since July to October 2018. Per the newly announced joint statement—signed by the Primorsky region’s governor, oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau and Whale Sanctuary Project Executive Director Charles Vinick—a team of international scientists will work to map out the captive creatures’ best chances of survival, deciding “when and how to release them” and creating a rehabilitation center designed to facilitate the process.
Unique oil-eating bacteria found in world's deepest ocean trench
Scientists from the University of East Anglia have discovered a unique oil eating bacteria in the deepest part of the Earth's oceans - the Mariana Trench.
Together with researchers from the China and Russia, they undertook the most comprehensive analysis of microbial populations in the trench.
III. Contact us
This quarter was compiled and edited by the NOWPAP Interns, HA Nam Kyu and Yuko Iemura.
Mr. HA Nam Kyu, a graduate from Korea's Kangwon National University, joined NOWPAP RCU Busan Office in March 2019. He is mainly responsible for translating NOWPAP website from English into Korean, preparing for newsletters and conducting research in marine and coastal environment. “Before I joined the NOWPAP, I dreamed a huge goal without tactical planning. This internship enabled me to learn how to break the big dream down into goals and milestones with dates and deadlines. I will further my studies in order to contribute to forest conservation and environmental protection in the future," he says.
Ms. Yuko Iemura, a graduate from City University of Hong Kong, joined the RCU Toyama office in February 2019. She supports research and analysis for the two projects, regarding the Emerging Environmental Issues and the NOWPAP Institutional Assessment. In this NOWPAP newsletter, she published a short article about the Blue Economy. “From this internship, I expected to learn the UNEP’s strategic approach to the global environmental issues in terms of policy and practice. This experience has taught me what I was looking for. It broadens my insights for international ocean governance and regional institutional cooperation,” she says.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU). Toyama Office:
5-5, Ushijima-shinmachi, Toyama-shi, Toyama, 930-0856, Japan | Tel (+81)-76-444-1611 | Fax (+81)-76-444-2780
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU). Busan Office
216 Gijanghaean-ro, Gijang-eup, Gijang-gun, Busan 46083, Republic of Korea | Tel (+82)-51-720-3001 | Fax (+82)-51-720-3009