UN Releases First World Ocean Assessment

The UN has published the First Global Integrated Marine Assessment, also known as the 'First World Ocean Assessment.' The assessment is expected to provide a scientific basis for consideration of ocean issues, including Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development).

In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) recommended a regular process for the global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment. On this recommendation, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) considered modalities for such an assessment and, in 2006, began work on an 'Assessment of Assessments.' In 2009, the UNGA established a 'Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process (Regular Process) for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects,' which is responsible for the preparation of the World Ocean Assessment. The summary of the first Assessment (A/70/112) was released in July 2015 and the report transmitted to the UNGA after its consideration at the concluding meeting of the first cycle of the Regular Process in September 2015. On 23 December 2015, the UNGA adopted Resolution A/70/235 on 'Oceans and the law of the sea,' which welcomed the First World Ocean Assessment.

“Urgent action on a global scale is needed to protect the world's oceans from the many pressures they face,” writes UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a forward to the report. He emphasizes the assessment's finding that the oceans' carrying capacity is near or at its limit and welcomes the first World Ocean Assessment as a basis for future assessments and implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The assessment contains 55 chapters divided into seven parts: 1) a summary; 2) context of the assessment; 3) assessment of major ecosystem services from the marine environment; 4) assessment of food security and food safety; 5) assessment of other human activities and the marine environment; 6) assessment of marine biological diversity and habitats; and 7) overall assessment of the ways in which human impacts affect the ocean and the benefits human draw from the ocean. The chapter 43 is on "Tropical and Sub-Tropical Coral Reefs".

The report addresses ten main themes: climate change; overexploitation of marine living resources; food security and food safety; patterns of biodiversity and changes; pressures from increased uses of ocean space; threats from increased pollution; effects of cumulative impacts; inequalities in the distribution of benefits from the ocean; the importance of coherent management of human impacts on the ocean; and problems of delay in implementing known solutions.

The Assessment does not provide recommendations for actions; rather, it presents science-based information on oceans for national governments and other stakeholders to use in deciding on actions, according to the Joint Coordinators of the Assessment.