Oceans are the quintessential sustainable development issue, essential to all three pillars of sustainable development—economic development, social development, and environmental protection. Oceans perform vital life-sustaining functions for the planet—oceans generate half of the oxygen on Earth, are a vital source of sustenance and livelihood, absorb carbon dioxide, and regulate climate and temperature. Just as one cannot do without a healthy heart, the world cannot do without a healthy ocean.
Oceans directly support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions around the globe and are a vital source of food and nutrition for billions. In addition to food resources, marine and coastal biodiversity provides many valuable services and products to people, including climate regulation, cancer-curing medicines, genetic resources, nutrient cycling, carbon storage, cultural value, and sustainable livelihoods, among others. Healthy oceans are inextricably linked to the long-term management, development, and well-being of coastal populations.
However, the impacts of a number of key drivers, including overfishing, pollution, population rise, and climate change are compromising the ability of the ocean to continue providing essential resources and critically important services.
Unless urgent and critical action is taken to address these negative trends, environmental conditions will continue to deteriorate, coastal communities will continue to suffer, and the action needed to mitigate these impacts will become more costly and difficult.