Sustainable ocean economy is the only way forward

Sustainable-ocean-economy-is-the-only-way-forward A remote lagoon, surrounded by limestone islands, protects a vibrant and diverse coral reef in Raja Ampat, West Papua. (Photo by Ethan Daniels / Shutterstock)

Source: The Jakarta Post 
Date: 7 January 2021 

The ocean is indeed a great value to the world. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Global Change Institute, University of Queensland and Boston Consulting Group estimated the economic value of the ocean at US$24 trillion in 2015, which came from marine resources, shipping lanes, productive coastline and carbon absorption. 

However, the wealth of the ocean depends on its health. At the same time, climate change impacts, overexploitation of marine resources, destruction of habitats and ocean pollution all together compound stresses on ocean health. 

In order to effectively protect the ocean, while at the same time sustainably utilize the ocean resources and create equitable prosperity for the people, a new paradigm on sustainable ocean economy is key. A sustainable ocean economy brings diverse stakeholders together to achieve common goals: effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity. 

This will mark a shift from the extractive approach to a degree where environmental protection, economic production and prosperity go hand in hand. The result is a triple win for nature, people and the economy, according to the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (HLP SOE). 

The panel of 14 world leaders from Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal was established in 2017 to build momentum for a sustainable ocean economy. 

On Dec. 3, 2020, the initiative, also called the Ocean Panel, launched a document titled "Transformations for a Sustainable Ocean Economy". The document sets targets to be achieved by the panel members by 2030 in order to reinforce transformations in ocean wealth, ocean health, ocean equity, ocean knowledge and ocean finance. 

Investments in sustainable ocean-based solutions offer very promising benefit-cost ratios that will yield high benefits. For example, the conservation and restoration of mangroves has a benefit-cost ratio of 3:1 and could raise $200 billion globally. Sustainable ocean-based food production has a ratio of 10:1 with $6.7 trillion in yield. 

Blessed with a very vast and resource-rich ocean (6.4 million square kilometers of area and 108,000 km of coastline), Indonesia can benefit immensely from such an ocean-based economy. 

Although there has been no formally accepted estimation of Indonesia's ocean value, primary research shows that Indonesia's ocean economy potential is estimated at Rp 2.4 quadrillion ($170 billion) according to the Indonesian Ocean Council in 2013 and Rp 1.73 quadrillion ($120 billion) according to the Indonesian Institute of Sciences in 2019. Indonesia's latest fisheries potential stood at 12.5 million tons per year with an actual production of 6.71 million tons in 2018, placing the country third globally after China and Peru (FAO, 2020). 

Indonesia is also home to the largest mangrove ecosystem that can store 3.14 million tons of carbon (Conservation International, 2019). Meanwhile, the seagrass ecosystem in Indonesia can potentially store 7.4 megatons of carbon every year (Ocean Science Journal, 2019). 

If the average global value of carbon is $15 per metric ton, the mangrove ecosystem in Indonesia could roughly yield $47.1 million and seagrass $111 million. 

Indonesia's ocean is also one of the busiest shipping lanes. Between 5,000 and 90,000 ships transited through the Archipelagic Sea Lanes (ALKI) 1 each year, more than 10,000 ships through ALKI 2 and less than 5,000 ships through ALKI III-A (Ahmad Irfan, 2020). 

Investment in a sustainable and environmentally friendly maritime infrastructure within those shipping lanes could result in very high economic benefits. Other sources of ocean-based income can also come from tourism and the energy sector. 

However, it should be emphasized that a healthy ocean is the key to a sustainable ocean economy. Indonesia ranks 137 out of 221 countries in the Ocean Health Index with a score of 65, which is still below the global average. Indonesia's performance in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14 (life below water) is in the orange category, meaning that Indonesia is still facing some significant challenges to meet the goal. 

Illegal and destructive fishing remain serious threats to the fisheries sector. Indonesia's fishermen's exchange rate has been falling since February 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indonesia is also battling against 620,000 tons of plastic debris that polluted the ocean (National Plastic Action Partnership, 2020). At the same time, the state of the mangrove, seagrass and coral reef ecosystems in Indonesia was quite alarming. 

The consistent implementation of a sustainable ocean economy in Indonesia will have positive results. First, the ocean will make a significant contribution to the national economy and the livelihood of the people. Second, environmental safeguards will be securely placed so that the needs of present and future generations can be met. Third, the considerable carbon absorption ability of Indonesia's ocean resources will allow (green) fund compensation. 

Fourth, Indonesia's reputation in the world will be elevated, which could positively affect Indonesia's investment climate. Fifth, the involvement of marginalized communities and consideration toward the equitable distribution of the benefits from the ocean will be ensured. 

Acknowledging the significant role of the ocean in Indonesia's national development and livelihood of the people, while also understanding the importance of maintaining the health of the ocean, a sustainable ocean economy is the only way forward in respect of ocean management. Moreover, an extractive approach that prioritizes the economy at the expense of environmental and social aspects is unconstitutional. 

Article 33 (4) of the Constitution, the Long-Term and Mid-Term National Development Plan and the 2017 National Maritime Policy give emphasis to environmental protection to ensure the sustainability of the resources. 

It is, therefore, time for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to take concrete measures to build a sustainable ocean economy.

Written by Mas Achmad Santosa, CEO of the Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative and Stephanie Juwana, director of the Indonesia Ocean Justice Initiative.

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