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Currently showing: Food security

02 Jun 15 08:39

In a recent report commissioned by the WWF (Reviving the Ocean Economy), it was estimated that the asset value of the world's oceans is at least a massive $24 trillion. Even in the same report, the authors state they believe this number to be a vast underestimate. For example, they did not even include a figure for the role the ocean plays in regulating the earth's climate. Wow, I say. If it's worth that much, surely we're all looking after it well, right? Surely we're making sure that not too many fish are being extracted, that not too much plastic and rubbish is being thrown in, that not too many of those protective 'green infrastructure' features like wetlands and mangroves are being removed.......aren't we? And the answer is no. In fact there is evidence that major ocean assets are in rapid decline at a time when demand and need for ocean resources is on the increase.

The oceans are a classic example of 'the commons' - resources that are not privately owned, but rather owned by all, ergo - we are all shareholders in this hugely valuable asset and should be treating it as one of our most valuable investments. We WILL see positive returns on that investment if we treat it well and so will our children, and their children. But not if we continue on the path that we are on.

So what can be done? How should we manage this common asset so that we can keep benefitting from its bounty without destroying it? How can all of the risks (and there are so many) be managed and who should be doing it?

The Reviving the Ocean Economy report makes eight very clear and actionable recommendations (see below) directed at national leaders and the industries that directly benefit from oceanic resources (which puts the onus on us as individuals to tell our leaders to step up!):

Action 1: Ensure ocean recovery features strongly in the UN Post-2015 Agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals that include strong targets and indicators for the ocean.

Action 2: We must all take global action to avoid dangerous climate change and further damage to the ocean.

Action 3: Conserve and effectively manage 10 per cent of representative coastal and marine areas by 2020, increasing coverage to 30 per cent by 2030. This is not just about setting aside the right amount of coastline but about protecting varied types of coastal ecosystem so that livelihood's, biodiversity, ecological integrity and food security are ensured.

Action 4: Rebuild fish stocks to ecologically sustainable harvest levels (Actions 3 and 4 go hand in hand and have been proven to work in countries that have set up sensible marine reserve networks and introduced measurable fishing quotas based on sound scientific population data)

Action 5: Drive new global cooperation and investment for the ocean with a coalition of maritime states to foster shared responsibility and decision-making.

Action 6: Reinvent public/private partnerships that take into account the well-being of communities, ecosystems and business.

Action 7: Communities and countries must build transparent accounting of the value of ocean assets (benefits, goods, services) to improve decision-making.

Action 8: Share knowledge more effectively and drive institutional collaboration using an interdisciplinary international platform, which takes into account social, economic and biological data.

Echoing a past conversation on this blog by Daniel Eckhart, I would like to pose the following questions: What is the role of the insurance industry in reviving the ocean economy? What can the insurance industry, experts in managing and mitigating risk (!!), do toward sustainable management of the world's oceans? I can already hear people say 'yes Gillian, but there is no clear insurance product here, no buyer, no liable individual or company, no clear causal link between cause and how should insurance play a role?' I would like to see some creative thinking though, also beyond how we look at insurance today. Is there a role for the insurance industry (I'm convinced there is) and what is that role?

Category: Food security, Climate/natural disasters


Reto Schneider - 4 Jun 2015, 12:16 p.m.

Even though pure risk transfer might be difficult to establish, insurance companies could invest in technology that help to clean up oceans and or to to manage/exploit oceans in a innovative and sustainable way.

Alicia Montoya - 8 Jun 2015, 9:57 p.m.

Happy World Oceans Day!

Thanks for your post, Gillian. All key points and, what I love the most... all achievable! :)

In terms of what insurance can do, WEF Global Leader Jayne Plunkett sees the re/insurance industry creating innovative products like it's done with land farming

In terms of what consumers can do, I love this HuffPo post that reminds us that there are many examples of fish stocks rebounding (and fast!) once science-based management is implemented.

"For example, since a discard ban was imposed for cod in Norway in 1987, the stock has increased to nearly nine times its previous level. In Japan, protecting habitat from bottom trawling increased the snow crab catch by 240 percent. In Kenya, a ban on fine-mesh nets boosted income 60 percent by providing more fish for poor fishing families. The United States in 2002 had 86 overfished stocks, representing 36% of the country's fisheries. By 2014, this was down to 37 overfished stocks or 16% of the total."

And let's not forget, it's us, consumers of this world, the ones buying fish in shops and ordering it at restaurants, who drive this industry. So one way we can all can help fisheries rebound is to make better seafood choices. For instance instead of eating from the top of the food chain and consuming predator fish, like tuna and salmon, opt for smaller, shorter-lived species, which can make for some of the most sustainable selections, like anchovies, sardines, mackerel and herring.

Gillian Rutherford - 9 Jun 2015, 10:55 a.m.

I really like the idea of 'blue bonds' for investors, similar to the 'green bond' initiative from the World Bank. See this post:

Dan Teague - 19 Jun 2015, 2:12 p.m.

I agree with Reto, Re/insurance Companies should invest more in the development of maschines to clean the oceans. I heard long time ago about people working on this but I guess they don't have enough financial suppport (see this example here:

If we want to save the oceans we need to concentrate in two things:
1. How can we clean the oceans?
2. Insurances should not support those fishing industries who are overfishing. We need to make sure that those companies are working on a sustainable way.

Gillian Rutherford - 19 Jun 2015, 3:18 p.m.

@Diana: yes, I totally agree that ocean clean up is needed. Here's a great post from Alicia on the topic: AND the Ocean Clean Up cleaning system looks like it will be deployed in 2016, so it's fantastic news:

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