Nelson Institute of Marine Research

Santa Barbara, California

How We Can Keep Our Oceans Healthy

Nations should strive to reduce and then stop population growth in areas where it threatens marine biological diversity, including coastal zones and areas (such as drainage basins) that affect them, by making population stabilization in these areas a national priority, and establishing family-planning programs to educate people about birth-control options and to provide them the means to prevent unwanted births. Industrialized nations, which have far more environmental impact per capita than developing nations, have a special responsibility to take these steps and to support developing nations to achieve population stabilization.

Industrialized nations along coasts or whose runoff drains into the sea should strive to reduce consumption and wasteful use of marine resources and land-based resources that affect marine biological diversity, in accord with the widely accepted imperative to reduce, reuse, and recycle. For example, to reduce marine oil pollution, physical alteration of coastal wetlands, and sea level rise due to global warming, industrialized nations should increase energy efficiency in the most cost-effective ways consistent with maintaining the basic amenities and quality of life, and should remove impediments to increased use of environmentally benign renewable energy resources within their countries and in developing nations. For their part, developing nations should not repeat the North's wasteful path to prosperity, but should adopt technologies and economic strategies that can improve economic and social conditions sustainably without diminishing marine biological diversity.

Nations should strive to achieve an open, nondiscriminatory, equitable, and environmentally sound multilateral trading system that will enable all countries - in particular, developing countries - to improve their economic structures and the standard of living of their populations, so that they have the means to maintain biological diversity in the sea, in freshwaters, and on land.

Nations should accede to and implement the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Nations should ratify UNCLOS III, and should invest far greater effort to implementing its provisions to protect marine areas and improve management of high seas fisheries.

The UN General Assembly should disseminate, discuss, and, where appropriate, adopt the alternative global environmental and development treaties drafted by environmental NGOs at the Global Forum at UNCED.

The UN should strengthen coordination among its relevant organizations with major marine and coastal responsibilities, including their regional and subregional components, and between those organizations and other UN organizations, institutions, and specialized agencies dealing with development, trade, and other related economic issues. A good beginning would be to establish a marine coordinating committee that includes agencies such as UNEP, UNESCO, FAO, IMO, the International Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Health Organization, and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

UN agencies and international lending agencies should take no actions that encourage the proliferation of technologies that contribute to the degradation of marine ecosystems or the depletion of marine species below sustainable levels.

UNEP, IUCN, WRI, WWF, and other organizations, as appropriate, should produce biennial reports on the status of biological diversity in the sea, in fresh waters, and on land, highlighting ecosystems and taxa of special concern.

IUCN, with cooperation from major funding organizations, should consider publishing an annual "State of the Seas" report that would include an overview of the state of the marine environment, accounts of exciting new scientific findings, descriptions of problems, disasters, actions and successes in particular areas, and record progress toward attainment of targets such as those set forth in Agenda 21, Caring for the Earth, and this document.

UNEP, IUCN, FAO, and IMO should convene a global conference to exchange experience in the field of IAM in coastal zones and the sea.

The UN should establish 1998 to 2008 as the International Biological Diversity Decade, to give the highest possible visibility to the need for immediate and farsighted action to protect the world's genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity, including that of the sea. All relevant UN organizations should be full participants in IBDD activities.

The UN should establish a Global Biodiversity Forum to assist the Secretary General in implementing the Global Biodiversity Strategy by providing guidance on priorities for the protection, study and sustainable and equitable use of biological diversity. The forum should consist of leading thinkers, opinion shapers, and decision makers in NGOs, industries, and governments, reflecting the diversity of the UN itself.

The UN should establish and host periodic (every three to five years) conferences on the health of oceans, coastal seas, and estuaries that would bring together government officials, NGOs, scientists, and user groups to discuss progress toward sustainable use, study, and protection of the sea.

The UN should establish an Early Warning Monitoring Network whereby timely information on immediate threats to marine biodiversity is provided to governments, companies, NGOs, and individuals who can act to avert those threats.

With the support and assistance of UNEP, and resources from GEF and other funders, IUCN, CMC, and WWF should hasten the establishment and implementation of an International Marine Conservation Network, which would link decision makers in international governmental organizations, NGOs, and governments in coastal nations worldwide to strengthen and increase communications on marine biological diversity issues, especially among developing nations, and to facilitate implementation of the recommendations in the strategy. Network participants should meet at each IUCN triennial general assembly to strategize on ways to effect the recommendations and improve the network's functioning.

The International Marine Conservation Network, when established, should assemble a list of subsidy laws and policies that have the worst effects on marine biological diversity, to be published in the World Resources Institute's World Resources biennial report.

With funding from GEF and other sources as necessary, and the assistance of participants in the International Marine Conservation Network, eligible nations should assemble national marine biological diversity conservation strategies to serve as blueprints for protecting and ensuring sustainable use of marine species and ecosystems within their waters.

IUCN should consider establishing a Commission on Conservation of the Sea to serve as the focal point of a wide spectrum of activities ranging from science and law to public education.

The members of WTO should consider the impact of trade measures on the environment and formulate amendments to balance and integrate the objectives of environment and trade policies.

The WTO should expedite convening the Working Group on Environmental Measures and amend regulations to encourage sustainable natural resource management and internalization of resource and environmental costs.

Nations should adopt EIA procedures for all government project or governmentally permitted projects that have significant actual or potential effects on marine or coastal ecosystems. These procedures ensure the participation of the public and of other government agencies, and should offer feasible alternatives to the proposed activities.

Nations should develop economic incentives to apply clean technologies and that means consistent with the internalization of environmental costs, such as the polluter-pays principle, so as to avoid degradation of the marine environment.

Nations that import marine products should create and enforce controls for their industries to ensure that production or extraction activities in other nations that supply these imports neither violate local, national, or international laws where the products originate nor constitute ecologically destructive or economically nonsustainable practices.

Nations should develop ecotourism as one of their tools for conserving biological diversity and as a powerful instrument for sustainable development, as long as they can ensure that its socioeconomic benefits extend to local people, and that tourism development does not result in biodiversity loss or cultural conflict.

Nations in which marine-oriented tourist operations are headquartered should encourage and assist other countries in developing EIA procedures that cover tourist activities, and should ensure that they neither violate local, national, or international laws where activities are occurring nor constitute ecologically destructive or economically nonsustainable practices.

Coastal nations should establish or strengthen coordinating mechanisms for integrated management of coastal marine areas and their resources, at both the local and national levels. Such mechanisms should include consultation with the academic and private sectors, NGOs, local communities, resource user groups, and indigenous people.

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Making Use of Marine Species Sustainable


Government agencies and NGOs should refer to the IUCN policy on "Sustainable Use of Wild Species" as the basis for developing national policies for managing species sustainably.

The East-West Center and Ocean Voice International should convene an international conference or group of workshops to provide for the UN the necessary documentation and language for a global convention to ban intrinsically destructive and unsustainable fishery techniques such as dynamite fishing, poison fishing, and muro ami.

IUCN, FAO, and UNEP should hold an international forum on inherently vulnerable marine species (particularly long-lived species with late reproductive maturation, including certain corals, mollusks, bony fishes and seabirds, most sharks and marine mammals, and all sea turtles) that are taken commercially, to delimit the special circumstances under which they might be exploited sustainably.

In all of their fisheries activities, FAO and national fisheries agencies should consider "miscellaneous marine products," such as corals and shells, as "serious" fisheries requiring as much monitoring and management as food fishes and shellfishes.

IUCN should, by the year 2000 issue a Red Data Book for Fishes that would compile available information on marine species that are inherently vulnerable to overexploitation, such as blue, lemon (Negaprion brevirostris), white, basking (Cetorhinus maximus) and hammerhead sharks (Sphyrna spp.) Atlantic (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) and Pacific halibut, orange roughy, jewfish (Epinephelus itajara) and Nassau grouper (E. Striatus).

The UN should declare the year 2000, as the Year of Sustainable Fishers, and should establish and fund 300 awards for Sustainable Fishers, which would go to small-scale fishers from member states who set an example for the sustainable use of living marine resources.

ICES, FAO, the World Bank, and the regional development banks should jointly develop guidelines for sustainable mariculture (including effects on local economies, coastal ecosystems, wild stocks, and diseases) to help public and private funding agencies in making funding decisions.

FAO and UNEP should establish a decade-long program to identify breeding areas of commercial marine species of international importance and establish criteria for their protection from all threats, including overexploitation.

FAO and IUCN should assemble available information on the local and regional physical and biological effects of trawling on the seabed, and should convene an international workshop on the impact of bottom trawling to explore ways to limit its impact.

FAO and IUCN should convene an international workshop on the effectiveness of bycatch reduction devices as a means of diminishing bycatch from bottom trawls.

The UN should work to encourage the creation and implementation of cooperative management regimes for species that move between EEZs of different nations (straddling stocks) or between EEZs and international waters, to remove incentives for individual nations to deplete populations below their optimum sustainable yields. It should convene, as soon as possible, a global conference on implementation of the Law of the Sea on straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks. The conference should assess existing problems related to the conservation and management of such stocks, and formulate appropriate recommendations. The work and the results of the conference should be fully consistent with the provisions of UNCLOS III, in particular the rights and obligations of coastal states and states fishing on the high seas.

FAO, the World Bank, and regional development banks should hold two international symposia on fisheries and coastal development, one on government subsidies and the other on tax policies, both of which would examine the effects on local economies and sustainability of artisanal and commercial (wild and mariculture) fisheries, by the year 2000.

FAO and nations' fisheries research agencies should work to develop materials for fish traps and nets that would degrade within one year under the conditions where traps and nets are most likely to be lost to avoid the sea's growing burden of "ghost" traps and nets. Moreover, fisheries management agencies should mandate that traps and nets be made with such materials for all fishing operations within their waters.


Coastal countries should have a management agency with responsibility and authority to protect living marine resources and manage them on a sustainable basis.

Agencies that undertake national and local planning, including EIA, for projects that could affect fisheries and other living marine resources should consult and coordinate with national and local agencies responsible for living marine resources and with organizations that represent fishers and other affected user groups. Nations should ensure that small scale artisanal fishers are given ample opportunity to participate in coastal and marine development and management programs, including creation of marine and coastal IAM (?) plans.

Nations should recognize and encourage the knowledge and living marine resource management methods of indigenous and traditional peoples, and ensure the opportunity for these groups to share in the economic benefits derived from the use of such traditional methods and knowledge.

Governments should take no actions that subsidize activities - including wetlands destruction, pollution or overcapitalization of fisheries infrastructure - that diminish the productivity, diversity, and sustainable use of living marine resources.

Nations should fully implement General Assembly Resolution 46/215 on large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing.

Nations should recognize the responsibility of IWC for the conservation and management of whale stocks and accept the authority of IWC agreements, including any catch limits or moratoria on whaling, as legal obligations, whether or not they are IWC members.

Nations should monitor and control fishing activities by vessels flying their flags on the high seas to ensure compliance with applicable conservation and management rules, including full, detailed, accurate, and timely reporting of catches and effort. Nations should take effective action consistent with international law, to deter the reflagging of vessels by their nationals as a means of avoiding compliance with applicable conservation and management rules for fishing activities on the high seas.

Nations should halt the taking of coral reef species for aquaria, curios, and construction materials except where it can be demonstrated that these practices are undertaken in an ecologically sustainable manner.

National governments, individually and jointly, should promulgate fisheries management plans for sustainable use that:

  1. incorporate the multispecies approach within large marine ecosystems;

  2. incorporate mechanisms to minimize bycatch;

  3. take into account effects of exploitation on genetic diversity within target species;

  4. completely separate stock assessment and allocation decisions; and

  5. incorporate the advice of fishers, conservationists, and members of the general public who use fishery products.

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Stopping and Reversing Physical Alteration


UNEP should convene, as soon as practicable, a global conference on the protection of the marine environment from land-based activities that physically alter or pollute marine ecosystems.

The UN and all member states should consider international mechanisms to protect hydrothermal vent ecosystems as resources of international importance that should not be degraded by mining for metallic sulfides, disposal of waste, or any other human use.

International lending agencies should take no actions that lead to the destruction, fragmentation, or simplification of mangrove forests, and should encourage only those uses of mangrove forests that can be sustained in perpetuity. Similar actions should be considered for other coastal ecosystems, including seagrass beds, salt marshes, and fringing reefs.


Nations should do everything possible to ensure that development activities that divert fresh water from rivers maintain the amount, quality, and timing of flow into estuarine and marine ecosystems to minimize adverse effects on their species and ecological processes

National and local governments should establish and enforce policies to curtail wetlands, disturbance, including logging, draining, diking, dredging, and filling, in relatively undisturbed coastal and estuarine wetland ecosystems.

Nations should ensure that development activities that subject marine wetlands larger than 5 hectares (12.4 acres) to irreversible or irretrievable change should be accompanied by rigorous EIA that details the full spectrum of wetlands values and should be subjected to the stringent standards of proof of the need for such a project. Moreover, these projects should not be carried out until a national wetlands inventory has been completed so the cumulative effect of the project on wetlands loss can be determined.

Nations and localities should ensure that beach renourishment projects are timed to minimize impacts to shore-nesting species and adjacent marine ecosystems.

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Preventing Pollution


UN members should draft and ratify a convention to discourage transboundary pollution in marine waters. The convention should identify liability procedures so that nations whose interests are harmed by transboundary pollution can be compensated for losses and cleanup.

UNEP should:

  1. Undertake a study of regional and worldwide accumulation of toxics in marine species and their habitats within EEZs and in international waters;

  2. establish a list of persistent toxic substances that should not be discharged into the marine environment; and

  3. encourage the drafting of a treaty among member states to ban the production or disposal of persistent toxic chemicals that accumulate in marine species and their habitats on a regional or global basis.

UNEP, through its Regional Seas Programme, should work toward regional agreements to limit land-based sources of marine pollution, with due attention to point sources and special attention to non-point sources.

IMO should assess the state of marine pollution in areas of congested shipping, such as heavily used international straits, with a view to ensuring compliance with international straits, particularly those related to illegal discharges from ships, in accordance with the provisions of Part III of UNCLOS III.

IMO should establish standards for fittings for equipment that transfers oil and hazardous materials between ships and other facilities, and nations should ensure that their fleets install equipment with standardized fittings.

IMO and national governments should adopt improved training and certification requirements for people who produce and transport oil, an international treaty requiring that all new ships that carry oil or other hazardous materials have double hulls, and regulations requiring crew levels sufficient to meet normal and emergency operation needs for oil tankers and vessels carrying other hazardous substances.

IMO should sponsor an international legal regime for oil pollution damage from ships with enough liability to deter oil pollution.

IMO should accelerate efforts to conclude negotiations on a hazardous and noxious substances liability convention.

IMO should fund legal and economic studies that investigate ways that local communities having fishing or marine park stakes in the coastal zone be compensated for pollution-related damage to those resources.

IMO should reclassify petroleum from the cargo category Type III, which requires moderate safeguards during handling, to Type I, which is used for substances that have substantial impact well beyond the accident scene, and therefore require maximum protection.

With the assistance of UNEP, IMO, and the multilateral development banks, nations singly or in regional consortia should establish or strengthen spill-response centers that would provide rapid, effective response to oil or chemical spills.

IMO should require tankers to install voyage data recorders, similar to airliners' "black boxes" which would indicate acceleration forces, stresses at various points on the hull, roll and pitch angles of the vessel, draft, and rudder angles and the times at which rudder movement took place, all of which would aid in assessing the causes of spills of oil and other hazardous substances. The black boxes should also record the times at which ballast tanks are filled and emptied, and other activities that affect the health of marine species and ecosystems.

IMO and member nations of the London Dumping Convention should adopt amendments to the Convention that ban the dumping of radioactive and industrial wastes.

IMO, UNEP, IOC, and IAEA should draft a code on transportation of nuclear fuel in flasks on ships, and shipments of such materials, particularly plutonium, should be subject to the most stringent safeguards to ensure that they do not enter the environment.

IMO should revise and update the IMO Code of Safety for Nuclear Merchant Ships and improve implementation of the revised code.

FAO, agricultural organizations, and nations should promote the use of environmentally less harmful pesticides and fertilizers and alternative methods for pest control, and nations should prohibit pesticides known to harm estuarine or marine species and ecosystems.

The GEF should support appropriate regional, national governmental, or non-governmental organizations to monitor marine pollution within GEF-eligible countries.

The World Bank, UNEP, WMO, and IOC should encourage and assist member nations in studies on the impact of conventional air pollutants and global atmospheric changes on marine species and ecosystems, and disseminate existing analyses to nations that are likely to be harmed by these pollutants and their effects.

UNEP should work with the World Bank and other international organizations and national governments to establish methods of assessing the cumulative effects of environmental degradation, especially pollution and physical alteration, from each proposed watershed, coastal, or marine development project involving international assistance or review.

International lending institutions, both public and private, should make special efforts to support programs that reduce the production of waste, encourage reuse, stimulate recycling, use "natural" methods of waste treatment, and diversify the portfolio of waste management options available to communities so that pollution control can be made flexible, economically viable, and environmentally less damaging.


Nations should monitor marine ecosystems and river systems that empty into marine waters for persistent toxic substances and regulate toxics with a view to achieving zero discharge levels.

Nations should develop and implement plans for reducing non-point sources of pollution of the marine environment.

Nations should eliminate agricultural policies that promote excessive uniformity of crops and crop varieties, which encourage the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that end up polluting estuaries and coastal waters.

Nations should build and maintain sewage treatment facilities for their waste waters in accordance with national policies and capacities, with the help of international development agencies if necessary, to have at least primary treatment of municipal sewage discharged to rivers, estuaries, and the sea, and should establish or improve regulatory and monitoring programs to control sewage discharge.

Nations should rigorously monitor and enforce provisions of MARPOL for ships sailing under their flags, owned by their citizens, or that use port facilities in their national waters.

Nations should require tug escorts for all single-boiler, single-engine, or single-screw tank vessels carrying oil or other hazardous products in waterways designated as high risk by individual nations.

Nations should require mandatory participation in vessel traffic service systems in high-risk or congested areas for all oil tankers and other hazardous-product carriers, and require that all such vessels posses and operate an onboard navigation system.

Nations should be aware of the fact that tank barges and other small oil and hazardous material-transporting vessels are responsible for a large share of spills, and should be subjected to the same stringent regulations as tankers.

Nations should adopt a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use and for alcohol abuse on all vessels involved in the transport of oil and hazardous substances.

Nations should mandate oil and hazardous-substances spill-response training for all tanker, barge, and tug crews, and anyone involved in the marine stages of oil and hazardous-substances transportation.

Nations should establish contingency plans to deal with oil spills in environmentally sensitive areas. Drills should be conducted periodically to test the feasibility of contingency plans, and to improve and upgrade them.

Nations should develop and require the use of methods of natural resource valuation that fully incorporate non-market values, as well as market values, in assessing damages resulting from spills of oil and hazardous materials.

Nations should establish strong civil and criminal sanctions for owners of ships, offshore oil and gas facilities, and coastal refineries for spilling oil and other hazardous substances spills, establish adequate environmental resource agency staffing to ensure compliance with spill planning requirements, and aggressively pursue legal action against violators.

Nations should not allow their industries to export waste products for disposal in the waters of other nations.

Nations should ensure that initiatives to protect coastal and marine areas, such as marine parks, sanctuaries, and fishery reserves, consider fully the upstream activities that affect these areas, and extend buffer zones or areas of special management as far up watershed areas as is needed to protect and maintain sustainable use of coastal and marine resources, through such cooperative mechanisms as the UNESCO biosphere reserve approach.

Government agencies should target environmental education efforts on business and industry groups whose activities affect the sea. For example, well-designed education programs for commercial fishers, in combination with incentive programs to return used and unwanted gear to port, can reduce discards of gill nets and trawls at sea. The same approach can help to reduce operational discharges of oil by tanker crews and physical damage to coral reefs by recreational divers.

Nations should take measures to reduce water pollution caused by organotin compounds used in anti-fouling paints, including phase-out of their use, as necessary.

Nations should offer a combination of economic incentives and penalties to encourage the proper disposal and recycling of motor oil and other petroleum-based motor lubricants that are presently poured down the drains of most nations.

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Ending Free Rides for Alien Species


The UN should declare that the establishment of interoceanic canals that do not serve as complete barriers to the introduction of nonnative marine species is contrary to sustainable development; nations should not permit such canals to be built; and international financial and technical assistance programs should require the establishment of effective barriers as essential conditions for assisting any proposed interoceanic canals.

As a replacement for the voluntary guidelines on ballast water management ratified by the IMO in 1991, IMO and ICES should convene a working group of maritime nations to draft an international treaty to stop the unintended introduction of alien species into marine, estuarine, harbor, and freshwater ecosystems in ships' ballast water, and nations should sign, ratify, and enforce the treaty.


Nations should strictly regulate the transfer of marine species and genetic resources and their release into the wild. Such transfers should be allowed only if no native species seems suitable for the purpose, if clear and well-defined benefits to humans or natural communities can be expected, and if it can be demonstrated clearly that the species will not harm populations of native species or the ecosystem into which it is introduced or into which it can spread.

Nations should adopt procedures for implementing recommendations in IUCN's position statement - Translocation of Living Organisms - and ICES's - The Code of Practice to Reduce the Risks for Adverse Effects Arising from the Introduction and Transfer of Marine Species.

Nations should establish education programs, such as the Hawaii (USA) Audubon Society's 1991-92 Alien Species Program, targeted at importers and distributors of aquaculture and pet species to minimize the release of alien marine species.

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Linking Marine Concerns with Global Atmospheric Solutions


Nations should push for a new, binding climate convention to replace the one signed at UNCED. Industrialized nations should set specific target dates and levels for stabilizing and reducing all greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric additions from land use, with the aim of capping them at 1990 levels and reducing them by 25 percent by 2005.

The UN should seek and establish an international agreement to ban any purposeful efforts to alter the ocean by any means, such as through fertilization, to increase the removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide, unless such proposed action is studied in detail by the IUBS and SCOPE and approved by the Security Council.

IOC and other relevant international scientific organizations, with the support of countries having the resources and expertise, should carry out analysis, assessment, and systematic observation of the role of oceans as a carbon sink.

National/Local Nations should sign and adhere to the Copenhagen amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer by negotiating a sharply accelerated phaseout of chloroflourocarbons and other ozone-depleting substances.

Nations and local governments should develop CO2-reduction plans that would include significant financial incentives for local communities to reduce net flux of CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

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Protecting and Recovering Depleted Populations and Species


UN agencies and international lending institutions should take no actions that encourage the proliferation of technologies that lead to the degradation of marine ecosystems or the depletion of marine species below sustainable levels.

FAO should train people in its fisheries observer program to identify and maintain statistics on incidentally caught marine mammals, seabirds, and sea turtles.

IUCN's SSC should set up specialist groups for any taxa of marine organisms at risk, including bony fishes, invertebrates, plants, and microorganisms, and should increase efforts to identify species in these groups that are in jeopardy. SSC should also establish a new interdisciplinary specialist group for coordinating efforts for conserving marine biological diversity.

IUCN's SSC should prepare or adopt action plans for all marine species considered endangered or vulnerable. Special priority should be given to species including the vaquita, northern right whale, Mediterranean monk seal, West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), short-tailed albatross, and Kemp's ridley sea turtle.

The IWC and IUCN should hold an international symposium on small cetaceans, to establish their status and strategies for conserving species and their genetic diversity.


Nations should establish and implement legal authorities to protect and recover species and populations in danger of extinction.

Nations should sign, without reservations, and become active participants in CITES.

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Protecting, Managing, and Restoring Marine Ecosystems


Although prevention of ecosystem degradation is clearly the best way to sustain resource values, because many marine and estuarine ecosystems have already been severely altered, the GEF and other funding sources should assist IUCN to establish a new Commission on Ecosystem Restoration to provide technical guidance and help with securing funding for nations seeking to restore the sustainability of their coastal waters, fresh waters, and lands.

GEF, with the help of IUCN, should use geographic information systems and coastal surveys to help eligible nations map all marine ecosystems dominated by macroscopic structure-forming species, including coral, oyster and worm reefs, kelp and seagrass beds, and mangrove forests, which provide essential habitat to myriad other species.

IUCN's CNPPA should develop a marine biogeographic scheme based on patters of endemism that can be used by nations and international institutions to help establish a global system of marine protected and special management areas. Using this biogeographic scheme, IUCN, in cooperation with GEF, should establish the framework for a Global Network of Marine Parks by the 2002 World Parks Congress, which should have protection and sustainable use of marine areas as its main theme. Moreover, IUCN and UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme should assist nations in establishing marine and estuarine biosphere reserves representing all of the major marine biogeographic regions featuring protection zones, sustainable use zones, and buffer zones as a means of conserving representative samples of the world's marine biota.


Nations should recognize that certain places within each marine biogeographic province merit protection as critical marine areas, including areas of especially high species diversity or endemism, and areas of special importance as sources of recruitment, as nursery grounds, and as stopover points and corridors for migratory species, and should establish these as protected or special management areas, which can be incorporated into the Global Network of Marine Parks outlined above.

Nations should vigorously implement the Ramsar Convention to promote the conservation of marine wetlands and freshwater wetlands of importance to marine ecosystems.

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Strengthening the Knowledge Base


Industrialized nations should establish national institutes for the environment (NIEs) as a mechanism for providing funding for areas of scientific research, monitoring, and training relevant to environmental quality, including maintaining marine biological diversity, and the World Bank should provide substantial long-term assistance to developing nations having adequate infrastructures and human resources to establish their own NIEs. An integral part of these NIEs should be national biodiversity centers, which would coordinate and fund (among other tasks) national marine biodiversity inventories (including inventories of species of potential economic value), to provide information to decision makers in industry, government, and the conservation and scientific communities, perhaps using as models Costa Rica's InBio or the Canadian Center for Biodiversity. The Association of Systematics Collections should provide assistance to these institutions to ensure that voucher specimens are deposited and maintained effectively within host countries and that interested researchers can have free access to them.

UNEP, with funding from the GEF and other funding sources and cooperation from IOC, IUBS, SCOPE, SCOR, ICES, and research institutions worldwide, should establish an integrated global system of regional research and monitoring centers to establish an integrated global system of regional research and monitoring centers to establish and run a comprehensive network of marine research and monitoring sites where long-term, baseline data on ecological processes can be accumulated and where research essential for the management of similar areas can be conducted. One special emphasis would be to gain far better understanding of variation at different spatial and temporal scales and its influence on our species. Such a system, which would integrate land-based, sea-based, and satellite observation, is essential if humankind is to gain a comprehensive understanding of marine processes and human impacts in time to respond to and prevent undesirable changes to the sea.

Industrialized nations should reverse the steep decline in support for biological systematics research, by substantially increasing and sustaining long term funding for research, training, and collections for traditional and molecular taxonomy of marine organisms. They should offer special economic incentives for people to enter these fields. Moreover, they should make special efforts to attract students from developing countries to increase the pool of qualified scientists for the international marine biodiversity centers mentioned below.

GEF should fund the establishment and maintenance of six to eight international marine biodiversity centers in developing countries in Latin America/Caribbean, Africa, and Australasia/Oceania. These centers, which could be located at or associated with the above-mentioned regional research and monitoring centers, would serve two functions; as regional collections and repositories of information for research on marine systematics (traditional and molecular), biogeography, ecology, and sustainable fisheries biology worldwide, and as donors of small grants to marine biodiversity researchers within their regions. These institutions would also provide the personnel and facilities to carry out national marine biodiversity researchers within their regions. These institutions would also provide the personnel and facilities to carry out national marine biodiversity inventories (see above) for nations that do not have the resources to do their own ones.

GEF should fund a consortium of organizations led by IUCN to carry out a global marine wetlands survey that would use remote sensing information and ground-truthing to determine the status and trends of marine wetlands nation-by-nation.

GEF and UNESCO should establish a program for assisting eligible coastal nations in setting up elementary - and secondary school pilot programs in marine resources and conservation, and if successful, should give these programs five-year funding commitments.

Governmental and private science funding agencies in industrialized nations should fund fellowship programs that would support research and training that integrate marine science, conservation biology, and related fields for graduate students and recent graduates from developing countries. These studies could be carried out either in industrialized countries or in those developing countries whose facilities and personnel permit this kind of intensive training.


Government and private science funding agencies should target funds for development of natural and social science fields critical to marine conservation, including marine conservation biology, marine landscape (seascape) ecology, marine restoration ecology, use of remote sensing in inventorying marine ecosystems, marine environmental resource valuation, and ecological economics.

Nations should encourage and welcome foreign scientific researchers, monitoring, and inventory efforts in their waters so long as they adhere to national and local laws and provide host nations with both raw data and information in final form, as a means of improving marine resource management.

Nations should establish biodiversity curricula for all primary and secondary schools to increase awareness about biodiversity and the need for its conservation, and should establish or strengthen national and subnational institutions providing information on the conservation and potential values of biodiversity.

Scientists undertaking marine research in foreign developing countries should unfailingly involve institutions, scientists, and students from host countries as active participants in their research, thereby improving the knowledge base in the host country and increasing the commitment to marine research and conservation.

Marine research institutions and scientists in industrialized countries should seek and provide financial support to qualified students from developing countries to assist their research at the researchers' home institutions, thereby developing a pool of qualified scientists committed to studying and conserving marine species and ecosystems.

Nations should design national conservation databases so that they can be linked with one another and with the World Conservation Monitoring Center.

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Providing Environmentally Sound Financial and Technical Assistance

Bilateral and multilateral development agencies and private lenders should not provide any funding for coastal or marine development projects or projects in watersheds significantly affecting coastal or marine ecosystems until there is thorough EIA of the short- and long-term environmental, social and economic effects on marine organisms, ecosystems, and those who depend on them.

To determine the accuracy of environmental impact assessments and whether there is need for modification of projects after they have begun, all projects funded by bilateral and multilateral development agencies and private lenders should include comprehensive environmental monitoring programs.

International financial institutions, including both private sector lenders and foundations and public sector donors and lenders, should develop guidelines or review procedures to ensure that they do not fund activities that will degrade the biological diversity and integrity of marine waters, and so prevent sustainable use of marine resources.

International and national public sector financial institutions should earmark funds for the development and operation of cooperative regional programs to conserve and sustainably use the sea. A good model would be the GEF to fund cooperative fisheries conservation within LMEs.

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Involving Citizens in Decision Making


The charters and policies of international agencies and the texts of international treaties, agreements, and programs should be modified as necessary to affirm the rights of individuals and NGOs to participate in decisions affecting environmental quality and the use of natural resources, including those of the sea.


Citizens concerned with conserving marine biological diversity should organize to share their views with other sectors of society. They should seek and expect assistance from IUCN and other established NGOs in their plans to establish, administer, and fund their efforts.

Nations should ensure the rights of individuals and NGOs to participate in decisions affecting environmental quality and the use of resources, including those of the sea, by enacting and/or enforcing appropriate laws institutionalizing such participation. By serving on government delegations and government advisory bodies, by testifying before legislatures, and by providing written testimony and comments, citizens can contribute their expertise and views for the deliberations of policy makers.

National government decision makers, including administrators, legislators, and the courts, should ensure that citizens have access to information relevant to decision-making processes that affect marine biological diversity. Citizens' rights to such information should be guaranteed by law.

National and local governments should encourage citizen oversight of domestic and international laws and treaties by providing funding or tax incentives for funding their organizations. Such tax laws have been crucial to the success of NGOs.

National and local governments and private institutions should encourage citizen participation and oversight in major decisions by private industry and other private organizations whose actions may affect marine biological diversity - for example, through environmental audits and other procedures - to demonstrate their compliance with applicable law and their efforts to minimize adverse environmental effects by their operations.

National and local governments should ensure that citizens can seek judicial review or other methods to ensure the enforcement of laws affecting the conservation of marine biological diversity.

National government agencies charged with conserving marine living resources should enlist the assistance of NGOs to support effective government conservation programs and to secure funding from national legislatures and international funding agencies for implementing that work.

Groups of citizens concerned about marine conservation should communicate with other organizations sharing their interests through such mechanisms as the International Marine Conservation Network to facilitate the implementation of recommendations in the strategy, to compare experiences, and to collaborate in achieving their mutual objectives.

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Changing the Burden of Proof

Leading IGOs (including the UN and the MDBs), NGOs, and nations should exert their influence to ensure that policies that encourage the increased use of marine species and ecosystems until there is irrefutable evidence of unacceptable adverse impacts are changed so that the burden is placed on the user to demonstrate reasonably that increased use levels will be sustainable and not have significant adverse impacts on target or associated species or ecosystems. The precautionary principle should govern the way we treat the sea.

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