The Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans - the world's only legal framework for protecting the oceans and seas at the regional level - celebrate their landmark 40th anniversary in 2014. As the world transitions to an inclusive green economy and looks towards the post-2015 development agenda, countries will continue to rely on the Regional Seas Programme "shared seas" approach to help restore the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity.
Earth’s oceans face a crisis that threatens to become insurmountable. Depleted fishing stocks, destruction of coastal habitats by urbanization and tourism, warming and rising seas, pollution from maritime and land-based activities, and a host of new perils such as deep sea mining and mid-ocean islands of plastic debris combine to challenge our technical abilities, institutions and willpower to deal with them.
In 2014, UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme celebrated its 40th anniversary. We are reminded of how successful these 18 regional MEAs spanning seven continents have been at bringing nations and institutions together in responsible stewardship of theirshared environment. Around the world, the Regional Seas have improved coastal zone management, reduced land-based pollution, protected priceless habitats, and perhaps most importantly demonstrated solidarity of purpose. Every one of the Regional Seas Programmes fulfills a unique role, by creating an essential link between local and global levels of action and between member countries and the international community.
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CHAPTER 1: Dawn of action
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CHAPTER 2: The regions respond
Photo: © 2012 GRID-Arendal/Peter Prokosch
CHAPTER 3: Change in the air
Photo: © 2010 GRID-Arendal/Lawrence Hislop
CHAPTER 4: On the horizon
photo: © 2011 GRID-Arendal/Peter Prokosch
CHAPTER 5: Future vision
Combating marine litter
Building national capacity to protect coral reefs
Keeping pesticides and heavy metals out of our food supply
Protecting fragile coastal ecosystems
Defending the world’s Small Island Developing States
Featured Videos: Oceans at 40
The Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black, Red, Arabian and North Sea are some of the most polluted and over-fished seas in the world and the pioneering campaign, Seven Swims in the Seven Seas for One Reason, will see Mr. Pugh become the first person to undertake long distance swims in each of the Seven Seas.
Concern is growing over the threat that widespread plastic waste poses to marine life, with conservative estimates of the overall financial damage of plastics to marine ecosystems standing at US$13 billion each year, according to two reports released on the opening day of the first United Nations Environment Assembly.
Most of the waste we produce on land eventually reaches the oceans, either through deliberate dumping or from run-off through drains and rivers. According to recent studies, over 80 percent of marine pollution comes from land-based activities.
The growth of algae that releases toxins are, in general, referred to as harmful algal blooms. A recent incident in Toledo, Ohio has highlighted the issue of over enrichment of water sources due to nutrients. Nearly half a million people in northwestern Ohio were without drinking water early in August 2014, after toxins produced by algae were found in the water supply.
The urgent appeal was issued during the first-ever United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, as Prince Albert, an award-winning environmental activist, addressed the myriad challenges facing the oceans - including pollution, overfishing and, increasingly, climate change.