Blue Economy Bulletin June 2018

June saw a number of international environmental days that highlighted the need for developing a sustainable blue economy. On World Environment Day, PEMSEA published a timeline highlighting our progress towards building a blue economy for the East Asian Seas. On World Oceans Day, we looked at the issue of plastic waste, outlining some simple steps everyone can take, and highlighting examples of plastic initiatives PEMSEA has supported. We are proud to share a story about the impact of Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) projects in the Tangerang Regency of Indonesia, and to have participated in the 6th GEF Assembly which finished today.

The global plastic problem is growing more acute, while the effects of China’s plastic waste import ban are only beginning to be felt. One way to deal with plastic waste is to close the “plastic loop”, reducing the waste that flows into the ocean and impacts coastal communities. Such waste management initiatives require the expansion of blue finance initiatives to maximize their impact and reach. Finance in the form of public private partnerships have proved useful in ensuring MPA management. With green bonds becoming more closely linked with the SDGs, WWF has set up the Asia Sustainable Finance Initiative to promote environmentally sustainable finance throughout Asia.

GEF projects focused on achieving tuna fishery sustainability in the high seas are coming to an end as a new study reveals over half of high seas fishing relies on subsidies. Sustainability for wild fisheries will benefit from 20 years of research providing a mathematical model for calculating maximum sustainable yield, as well as from evidence in the Gulf of Thailand of the effectiveness of fisheries refugia. Aquaculture is also set to be improved by integrated multi-trophic techniques being applied in the Yellow Sea. Other facets of the blue economy are also being explored by the GEF, whose Blue Forests project is providing a global assessment of the value of blue forest ecosystem services. The value of such “forests” are already visible in places like Qingdao, China, where seaweed aquaculture is an important economic activity.

The importance of ICM is highlighted by new research showing that a loss of coral reefs will result in increased flood damage to coastal areas. Such environmental risks have prompted Indonesia to declare that its next five-year development plan will be low-carbon and take into account environmental carrying capacity, while the global shipping industry is considering numerous ways it could reduce its own carbon emissions.

Follow the latest updates on blue economy and coastal sustainable development in East Asia on Facebook and Twitter (@PEMSEA). We welcome your feedback, and please let us know if there are other blue economy topics you would like to see in future newsletters and programs.


PEMSEA participates in the 6th Global Environment Facility Assembly

During the 6th GEF Assembly, PEMSEA assisted the Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands in hosting the workshop “Current developments, strategic direction and support for sustainable development of Vietnam’s coasts”, and PEMSEA Executive Director Aimee Gonzales was a panelist on the “Marine Plastic Debris Management” side event. Discussions on regional action to tackle plastic pollution were held with UN Special Envoy for the Ocean Mr. Peter Thomson, World Resources Institute/Friend of the Ocean’s Kristian Teleki, and officials of the GEF, among others. Read more from PEMSEA.

Looking back on 25 years of PEMSEA on World Environment Day

On World Environment Day, PEMSEA (11 country partners, 22 non-country partners and secretariat) looked back with pride on 25 years working towards a shared vision of a healthy coastal and marine environment in the Seas of East Asia. View the timeline of PEMSEA’s activities on the EAS Congress 2018 website.

PEMSEA supports the international celebration of World Oceans Day

PEMSEA’s interest in investing its technical resources and energy towards safeguarding the region’s oceans lies in its firm belief that oceans are vital to the economy and our way of life. The ocean economy of PEMSEA’s member states alone is worth over US$1.5 trillion. However, the ocean is facing an onslaught of threats from various sources that include: climate change, pollution, habitat loss and destructive fishing. Dealing with this requires action on all levels. Read our Executive Director’s World Oceans Day message and more about plastic pollution in the region on the EAS Congress 2018 website.

Mangrove restoration and environmental education: community coastal development in the Tangerang RegencY

Lying on the western edge of Greater Jakarta, the Tangerang Regency has become an enthusiastic proponent of Integrated Coastal Management (ICM). One of many flagship programs set up by the regency is Gerbang Mapan, which is tasked with bringing together different stakeholders to support sustainable development in the regency’s coastal areas. Pilot projects include a mangrove reserve, reforesting mangroves around commercial fish ponds, and creating environmental education activities for primary schools. These projects are supported by PEMSEA as part of a GEF/UNDP Project on Scaling Up the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia. Read more from PEMSEA.

PEMSEA and others at the 6th GEF General Assembly (PEMSEA)


Seaweed helps Qingdao’s marine economy stay afloat

The coastal Chinese city of Qingdao has a flourishing seaweed aquaculture industry. Having formed part of Chinese diets since the 6th century, today per capita seaweed consumption in China is one of the world’s highest at an estimated 2.5kg annually. The seaweed industry in China is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and China produces over half of global output while also being one of the largest seaweed importers. In addition to its use in the food industry, seaweed derivatives are used in make-up, dyes, paper products, fabrics, and fertilizers. Read more from CGTN.

Closing the “plastic loop” on marine waste across Asia

Waste management is a huge problem for many coastal areas, which must deal with the 8 million tons of plastic waste that flows into the ocean every year. This is an especially prominent issue in Asia, where a lack of solid waste management systems is compounded by the production of the vast majority of the world’s marine plastic. Affected countries have seen significant impact from large alliances bringing together international bodies, national governments, and the private sector. Community-based solutions also can have significant impact in preventing plastics from reaching the sea. Read more from Mangroves for the Future.

Calling for a sea change in the business of oceans

The challenges facing the ocean, like those involved in climate change, are too large to be solved by any one sector or industry. The UN considers ocean management one of the five major risks facing society. Despite the benefits the ocean provides to climate, livelihoods, health, and economies, the SDG dealing with the oceans, Goal 14, is the SDG with the lowest priority for businesses. The UN’s launch of an Action Platform for Sustainable Ocean Business will provide a roadmap through which business can help ensure the health of the ocean and contribute to sustainable development. An urgent sea change in our treatment of the oceans is needed. Read more from GreenBiz.

Seaweed aquaculture is an important sector of East Asia’s blue economy. (PEMSEA / Lyka Cabatay)


Blue finance: The Philippines declares war on waste

The closure of Boracay in the Philippines highlights the need for effective waste management. While waste management lacks the glamour of other blue economy sectors, such as creating MPAs for coral reef protection, it is a critical marine challenge that crosses borders and affects everyone. Community-led, bottom-up approaches to waste management are showing promise in areas of the Philippines and Indonesia. PEMSEA offers its perspective in this article based on 25 years of experience tackling marine pollution. Read more from Euromoney.

Improving livelihoods of communities sharing the yellow sea

Cooperation between China and RO Korea is needed to ensure the sustainability of seafood in the Yellow Sea. A decreasing wild fish population has brought in measures such as restricted fishing seasons, fishing boat buyback schemes, and the creation of Marine Protected Areas. Alongside this, aquaculture has intensified, which alleviates pressure on wild populations, but due to the resulting eutrophication creates dead zones in nearby areas of the ocean. To solve this, the two countries, with the support of UNDP and GEF, are investing in the research and adoption of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA), which grows species of different trophic levels together to create a closed nutrient loop. Read more from IW:LEARN.

High Seas Fishing Isn’t Just Destructive—It’s Unprofitable

As much as 54% of current high seas fishing would be unprofitable without government subsidies. Labor exploitation and underreporting catch also plays a role in a number of cases. Global subsidies in 2014 are estimated to have been worth $4.2 billion, while there was only $1.4 billion in profit. In addition to being economically infeasible, high seas fishing is often immensely damaging to the environment and is difficult to monitor. Read more from National Geographic.

Improving management of tuna fisheries on the high seas

Tuna are a highly migratory species often found in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), which presents a substantial challenge to sustainable fisheries management. These fisheries also create collateral risk for other marine species, which are often caught as bycatch. A GEF-funded Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project was launched by the FAO in 2014 with the aim of creating sustainable ABNJ tuna fisheries. Now entering its last year, it has succeeded in developing harvest control rules for six tuna stocks, with efforts to continue until all stocks are covered. It has also developed a certification-based training program for compliance officers in tuna fisheries and proved the effectiveness of electronic monitoring systems. Read more at IW:LEARN.

Facing resource crisis, Indonesia charts a ‘green development’ course

Indonesia is developing a new five-year development plan that aims to be low-carbon and consider the carrying capacity of the country’s natural resources, which has become critical as food and water shortages become more acute. Environmental damage is directly harming the population, which faces notoriously polluted water, among other issues. Read more from Mongabay.

Waste cleanup in Manila Bay (PEMSEA / Raniel Jose Castañeda)


Blue forests – healthy oceans, healthy communities

Coastal and marine ecosystems such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and saltwater marshes play an important role in the environment and in society, sequestering carbon, providing flood defense, supporting fisheries, supplying fuel and timber, cleaning water, creating opportunities for tourism and recreation, and shaping cultural identities. The GEF Blue Forests project provides the first global-scale assessment of the value of the ecosystem services and coastal carbon capture that these forests provide. It also supports projects around the world that aim to revitalize these ecosystems. Read more at IW:LEARN.

Flood damage would double without coral reefs

Coral reefs serve as natural breakwaters that reduce wave energy and thus limit the impact of waves on nearby coastline. The decline of these reefs due to climate change, especially in shallow waters, will expose more coastline to damaging floods. Such damage comes on top of already expected increasing flooding from sea level rise as a result of climate change. Countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines could avoid up to $400 million in annual damage by maintaining their reefs, which provide a critically undervalued ecosystem service. Read more from the Manila Bulletin/AFP.

New research in Kenya finds sweet spot for harvesting reef fish

A 20-year study by the Wildlife Conservation Society in Kenya has generated a mathematical model that has been able to accurately predict catches in 10 locations along the heavily fished Kenyan coast. The study found that a fish biomass of 50 metric tons per square kilometer is needed to harvest 6 metric tons per year. Read more from EurekAlert!.

Fisheries refugia concept in the Gulf of Thailand

Area-based approaches to fisheries management have seen success in the western Gulf of Thailand in protecting the Indo-Pacific mackerel (Rastrelliger brachysoma). Targeted management measures have been adopted in different areas at crucial times, protecting larval and juvenile fish during critical life-cycle stages. Since the expansion of the network there has been an almost 10-fold increase in fish landings, providing increased food security to small-scale operators. Similar management opportunities are being explored for the currently over-exploited longtail tuna (Thunnus tonggol). Read more from IW:LEARN.

Coastal seaweeds provide important ecosystem services. (Pemsea / Carlo Zamora)


World’s plastic waste crisis to worsen after China import ban

Following China’s import ban on a huge amount of foreign plastic at the end of 2017, plastic rubbish is building up in countries that relied on China for waste disposal. Other countries that initially increased their acceptance of plastic rubbish after China’s ban, such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Viet Nam, are themselves becoming overburdened. Many plastics cannot be recycled, so the industry faces the challenge of adapting to a more waste-aware world. Read more from Aljazeera.

New regulations send shipping sector hunting for low-carbon solutions

The announcement by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) of a greenhouse gas emissions target for the industry adds more pressure for the industry to become more sustainable. For example, vessels will now have to meet mandatory energy-efficiency measures. It is likely to be more cost-effective for many shipowners to build new ships to meet these guidelines rather than retrofit older ones. In new ships, a variety of tactics such as changing fuel, trying new engines, improving hull designs, capturing wind energy, using environmentally friendly coatings, and even moving at slower speeds are being considered. Read more from Eco-Business.

Brand Impacts and Social Responsibility

Starbucks is coming under fire in Hong Kong, where its primary licensee also owns a chain of shops that sells shark fin. Given the unsustainability of shark fisheries and the threat they pose to multiple endangered species, shark fin products have become increasingly unpopular. For example, the Chinese and Hong Kong governments have banned it from official functions. Campaigners in Hong Kong are putting pressure on Starbucks rather than the local licensee, highlighting how the actions of brand licensees can reflect upon large multinational chains. Read more from Ocean Recovery Alliance.

China’s import ban on plastic waste leaves other countries looking for new ways to deal with their rubbish. (PEMSEA / Allan Castañeda)


Blue finance: Why marine PPPs could be a win-win-win

Including Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in investment structures is seen as a potential boon for marine conservation and impact investing. Proving the value of effectively managed MPAs is important both for convincing governments to invest in creating and managing them and to attract other sources of sustainable finance. The resulting “co-managed” MPAs have attracted the interest of a number of sustainable investment groups who believe these MPAs will benefit government, the private sector, and the ecosystems within them. Read more from Euromoney.

Green Bonds: A Bridge to SDGs

The established green bond model combines disclosure and reporting requirements with assets that deliver a positive sustainability impact. This model is being replicated for other thematic bonds, such as social bonds, sustainability bonds, environmental social and governance bonds, and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) bonds. The SDGs are increasing in use as signifiers for the potential impacts of investments and projects. This increasing synergy between green finance and the SDG agendas will be important in meeting the aims of the SDGs. Read more from the Climate Bonds Initiative.

Multi-stakeholder platform to drive excellence in sustainable finance across Asia

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has launched the Asia Sustainable Finance Initiative (ASFI), a multi-stakeholder platform aimed at increasing financial investment in projects with sustainable outcomes. ASFI brings together governments, civil society, and academia in order to develop and coordinate science-based best practices in sustainable finance. ASFI will create an online knowledge hub to house research, tools, and best practice examples. Read more from WWF.

How to advance the monitoring of climate risk insurance

Climate risk insurance provides a promising way to finance recovery after natural hazards and extreme weather events and has already demonstrated effectiveness in countries around the world. However, monitoring and evaluating the impact of such insurance systems has so far focused on criteria that emphasizes positive impacts, ignoring potential unintended impacts. Correctly evaluating climate risk insurance will insure that it contributes to solving social conflicts rather than exacerbating them. Read more from Climate Diplomacy.

Structures to allow investment in MPA management may aid the effectiveness and spread of MPAs. (PEMSEA / Ashley Equi)


4th GEO Blue Planet Symposium

4-6 July, Toulouse

World Cities Summit

8-12 July, Singapore

Singagpore International Water Week

8-12 July, Singapore

International Forum for Sustainable Asia and the Pacific 2018

18-19 July, Yokohama

World Congress on Climate Change and Global Warming

6-7 August, Osaka

7th World Sustainability Forum

19-21 September, Beijing