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Global Marine Assessment

The Regional Seas strategy encourages the Regional Seas programmes to increase monitoring and assessment activities, and to facilitate a science-based decision making system including participation in such processes of the UN General Assembly known as the Global Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment (GMA).

The concept of establishing such a regular marine environment assessment to provide accurate information to decision makers on the state of the marine environment was initiated in 1999 by national governments, under the leadership of Iceland, at the seventh session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Further Global Marine Assessment (GMA) initiatives included the technical workshops in Reykjavik (2001) and Bremen (2002). At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002, States agreed to "Establish by 2004 a regular process under the United Nations for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects, both current and foreseeable, building on existing regional assessments" (GMA).

The General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to prepare proposals for a regular process for the global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, drawing in part upon the work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and taking into account a recently completed review by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP).

A group of experts convened in 2004 produced a document for submission to a GMA International Workshop in June 2004. The Group concluded that the marine assessment process should address all dimensions of marine ecosystems, including the physical and chemical environment, biota, and socioeconomic aspects.

The assessments would address the state of marine ecosystems, causes of change, benefits derived from marine ecosystems, and threats and risks. The geographic scope of the assessments should span coastal and estuarine waters through ocean basins, taking account of terrestrial and atmospheric influences.

As to the topics to be addressed in the assessment process, the Group of Experts suggested that a list of issues or activities could include:

  • Intentional large-scale perturbations of the open ocean, such as deliberate fertilization and carbon sequestration;
  • Effects of habitat degradation in the marine environment on fisheries;
  • Assessment of deep-sea and open-ocean conditions (e.g., biodiversity, productivity) integrated across all oceans;
  • Increased atmospheric input of nitrogen to the oligotrophic open ocean;
  • Review of methodologies for the economic valuation of marine ecosystem services;
  • Implications of coastal degradation for human health and safety; and
  • Best practices for particular emerging uses of the ocean.

The Group also recommended the establishment of a Global Scientific Assessment Panel. The subsequent GMA International Workshop recommended that the General Assembly invite the Secretary-General to establish a task force to oversee next stage of preparatory work for the GMA.