A United Nations report highlights the opportunities the ocean holds and charts a course to sustainably use marine resources.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Trade and Environment Review 2023, published on 8 May, analyses the world’s ocean economy – worth an estimated $3-6 trillion – and assesses how human activity and multiple global crises have significantly affected different sectors, including fishing, seafood, shipping and coastal tourism.

The report, presented at the 3rd UN Trade Forum, calls for a global trade, investment and innovation “Blue Deal” to sustainably use our ocean, home to 80% of all life. It builds on the recommendations from the 4th UN Oceans Forum and the 2nd UN Ocean Conference held in 2022.

“The ocean economy offers many opportunities. We must strike the right balance between benefitting from the ocean and protecting its resources,” UNCTAD Deputy Secretary-General Pedro Manuel Moreno said.


Photo: Coral Reef Image Bank/Michele Roux


Opportunity knocks

The report highlights two particularly promising sectors for sustainable development – seaweed farming and plastics substitutes.

The global market for seaweed has more than tripled in two decades, increasing from $4.5 billion in 2000, to $16.5 billion by 2020.

Seaweed doesn’t need fresh water or fertilizer to grow, UNCTAD points out. It can be farmed in many developing countries for food, cosmetics and biofuels, and provides an alternative to plastic. Around 11 million tonnes of plastics flow into the ocean each year.

The world traded about $388 billion in plastics substitutes in 2020 – just one third the amount traded in plastics made from fossil fuels.

The report calls for governments and businesses to boost funding for the research and development of emerging sustainable sectors in the ocean economy.

It urges companies to invest in developing countries to bolster their technology, skills and productive capacities, so both can capitalize on sustainable marine development.

Further information and the full report can be found here.

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