24 March 2017: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the Government of Norway debuted the latest version of the ‘Dr. Fritjof Nansen,’ which is the only research ship that flies the UN flag. In advance of the UN Ocean Conference, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has launched a blog series that will explore issues related to implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 (life below water). Other recent sustainable fisheries management and oceans activities include: an expert meeting on trade in marine species; approval of a World Bank project on fisheries and aquaculture in Peru; a publication on fish production in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List publication on marine bony fish species; and a number of activities by the Common Oceans project.

The Government of Norway launched the Dr. Fritjof Nansen, which is a 75-metre long, US$65 million research ship that contains seven laboratories with high-tech equipment, including new-generation acoustic gear for ocean floor mapping and biomass assessment, a remote underwater vehicle, and a climate laboratory. The vessel supports research on the world’s least explored oceans and helps developing countries collect scientific data for sustainable fisheries management. It also contributes to research on how climate change affects the oceans. The ship is the third version of a research vessel of the same name that carried out research expeditions off the coast of more than 60 nations. The ship is named after a Norwegian diplomat, explorer and zoologist who developed some of the first scientific equipment for marine studies and won the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize. The Dr. Fritjof Nansen ship will begin mapping the coast of West Africa in May 2017 through a joint Norwegian-FAO programme, operated by Norway’s Institute of Marine Research (IMR).

Speaking at the vessel’s debut event, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg underscored the role of science and international collaboration in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She said Norway “understands the importance of SDG 14” (Life below Water) and knows it cannot be achieved “by any one country on its own.” She elaborated that the “Norwegian-FAO cooperation on the Nansen is an example of collaborating with developing countries to achieve this.” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said the vessel’s research activities will improve marine observations and enhance understanding of climate impacts on oceans and aquatic ecosystems, saying such research “is crucial to enable developing countries to increase the resilience of ecosystems and coastal communities, especially regarding small-scale fisheries.”

Also on SDG 14 implementation, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) featured an ‘Our Perspective’ piece, titled ‘Treasure or tragedy—our ocean commons,’ which illustrates the vast underwater resources in the world’s oceans. Observing that SDG 14 aims to conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas, UNDP’s Head of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Midori Paxton, underscores the importance of expanding marine protected areas (MPAs) for marine biodiversity conservation, socio-economic benefits and ecosystem health.

On fisheries and aquaculture, the World Bank’s Board of Directors approved a US$40 million loan to improve the sustainability of Peru’s artisanal and industrial fishing industry and increase the diversity and productivity of the country’s aquafarming system. The project aims to support the Government of Peru to redirect its marine fishing strategy towards species other than anchovy and to promote investment in aquafarming value chains to improve food security and nutrition, create jobs and increase incomes.

Also on aquaculture, WorldFish of the CGIAR Consortium and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) released ‘Fish to 2050 in the ASEAN Region,’ which finds that fish production among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries is expected to provide over half of the fish for consumption in the region. The report highlights the importance of fish for ASEAN’s food security and nutrition, employment and income generation, and poverty alleviation. The report underscores the role of policies on sustainable aquaculture expansion and law enforcement in fisheries management in ensuring sustainable growth in the region’s aquaculture and fisheries sectors.

IUCN Director General Inger Andersen said, “the growing extinction threat to fish off the central and western coast of Africa could seriously undermine food security across the region, impacting on progress towards the first two SDGs in addition…to undermining SDG 14.”

In addition, IUCN published the ‘Red List of Marine Bony Fishes of the Eastern Central Atlantic,’ which warns that many marine fish species are in danger of extinction as a result of overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution, climate change and invasive species. The report finds that 37 out of 1,288 bony fish species are threatened with extinction and an additional 14 are near threatened. The report observes that many of the most threatened species are staple food sources for local people, cautioning that species’ decline will also affect food security and livelihoods. Commenting on the report, IUCN Director General Inger Andersen said, “the growing extinction threat to fish off the central and western coast of Africa could seriously undermine food security across the region, impacting on progress towards the first two SDGs in addition…to undermining SDG 14.” The report concludes by highlighting the need for improving monitoring of marine biodiversity in the region and increasing conservation and enforcement efforts.

With regard to sustainable use and conservation of marine species, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) hosted a meeting with experts from FAO, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and Regional Fisheries Bodies (RFBs) to discuss cooperation on implementing CITES for marine species, particularly sharks and rays. Participants reviewed progress on strengthening developing country capacity to implement CITES wildlife trade regulations for commercially-exploited aquatic species, with the aim of ensuring that international trade in sharks and rays is legal, sustainable, traceable and in full compliance with CITES. Participants also identified areas for future collaboration, including for a potential European Union (EU) funded CITES project for 2017-2019. The meeting took place from 13-15 March, in Geneva, Switzerland.

On fisheries research, the Common Oceans (Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction) ABNJ Deep Seas Project and the Horizon 2020 SponGES completed a scoping study on the valuation of deep-sea sponges that found the literature on the economic valuation of ABNJ and deep-sea ecosystem services is “extremely limited in size and scope” with no quantitative information on ecosystem services associated with deep-sea sponge grounds. The study identifies areas for further investigation to address knowledge gaps and inform decision-making on deep-sea sponges. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) funds the Common Oceans ABNJ Deep Seas project, which is implemented by FAO and UN Environment.

Other recent activities highlighted by Common Oceans include: efforts to advance sustainable tuna management in the Indian Ocean; capacity building efforts on implementation of the precautionary approach in fisheries; a dialogue on implementing an ecosystem approach to fisheries management among tuna RFMOs; trainings to improve capacities to combat illegal fishing in developing countries; and development of new monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) tools. [FAO Press Release on Dr. Fritjof Nansen] [UNDP Blog Series] [CITES Press Release] [World Bank Press Release on Peru Project] [WorldFish Press Release] [Fish to 2050 in the ASEAN Region] [IUCN Press Release] [Red List of Marine Bony Fishes of the Eastern Central Atlantic] [Common Oceans Press Release on Deep-Sea Sponges] [Common Oceans Press Release on Tuna Management Workshop] [Common Oceans News Page] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Nansen Research on Ocean Trash] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Nansen Development]