Taking ocean action from commitment to implementation: Friends of Ocean Action call for real change for ocean health

Friends of Ocean Action, the World Economic Forum’s community of global leaders who are committed to fast-tracking solutions for ocean health, are calling for accelerated progress to turn recent commitments into real change that will benefit our ocean and everyone who depends on it.

There have been a suite of recent successes and strides forward in ocean governance, that Friends of Ocean Action applaud and welcome – in particular:

  • Agreement to protect the high seas

March 2023: Successful conclusion of the resumed Fifth Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction (BBNJ IGC5), wherein States found common ground on the text of the High Seas Treaty, after over twenty years of negotiations. Countries now need to ratify and begin implementing the agreement.

  • Commitment to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030

December 2022: Global Biodiversity Framework, agreed by parties to the Conference on Biological Diversity (CBD), including the bold commitment to protect 30% of terrestrial, coastal and ocean areas by 2030. Known as 30x30, this measure is what science informs us is necessary to prevent a cascading of species’ extinctions, but action is needed to create marine protected areas.

  • Deal to end harmful fisheries subsidies

June 2022: Agreement among members of the World Trade Organization to phase out harmful fisheries subsidies that enable illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, following two decades of talks. The deal needs to be formally accepted by WTO members, and negotiations must still be concluded to remove subsidies that support overcapacity.

  • Consensus to take action to tackle plastic pollution

March 2022: Agreement at UN Environment Assembly among countries to work together in dedicated multilateral negotiations to seal a robust, internationally binding treaty to tackle the scourge of global plastic pollution. The work of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for this treaty must continue its trajectory of solid progress.

  • Advances in controlling seafood that transits in and out of ports

Ongoing: Significant advance has been made on the number of countries signing on to the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), the FAO agreement that combats IUU fishing by providing for inspection on what comes in and out of ports, which vessels are flagged to which countries, and other measures. Still more countries are required to sign up in order to achieve universality in implementing PSMA.

  • Overall progress for SDG14, the ocean goal

Ongoing: Much general progress to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for the ocean, SDG14, has been achieved over the last year or more, in establishment of marine protected areas, advancement of ocean science, increasing economic benefits to Small Island Developing States. We must focus on the next UN Ocean Conference in Nice in June 2025 as a key transit point along the route to the 2030 culmination of our decade of ocean action.

Taken together with the success of recent ocean action gatherings such as President Macron’s One Ocean Summit in Brest in 2022, the Our Ocean Conference in Panama and The Economist’s World Ocean Summit in Lisbon in 2023, these were historic blue wins for multilateralism, and for the ocean’s well-being.

“We should all enthusiastically welcome and draw energy from this progress for ocean health. But these worthy commitments have little worth if they remain only on paper. Countries must carry the solemn pledges they have made through to the next steps of national ratification in order for the agreements to enter into force. It is then that their implementation can get underway, bringing tangible, positive change in favour of the healthy ocean we all want to see restored. We must work together to finish the unfinished business of ocean action,” said Friends of Ocean Action Co-Chairs, Isabella Lövin and Peter Thomson.

“We must continue riding this wave of momentum for a healthy and thriving ocean to tackle the unfinished business of global ocean action – and take these landmark agreements from adoption to ratification to equitable and sustainable implementation, for the sake of the ocean and those who depend on it. The ocean is no longer optional,” said Alfredo Giron, Head of Ocean Action Agenda and Friends of Ocean Action at the World Economic Forum.

Media contact

Gemma Parkes, Communications Lead, Friends of Ocean Action and Ocean Action Agenda, gpa@weforum.org