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Regional Seas Programme for ocean-related SDGs
by UN Environment Programme (United Nations entity)
UN Environment established the Regional Seas Programme in 1974 to address the accelerating marine pollution through the cooperation of neighbouring countries sharing common bodies of water. Currently, 18 regions participate in the Programme, of which 14 Regional Seas programmes are underpinned by legally binding conventions.

The 18 regions are: Antarctic, Arctic, Baltic, Black Sea, Caspian, Eastern Africa, East Asian Seas, Mediterranean, North-East Atlantic, North-East Pacific, Northwest Pacific, Pacific, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, ROPME Sea Area, South Asian Seas, South-East Pacific, Western Africa and Wider Caribbean.

As a response to the Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development, the Regional Seas Programme aims to assist Member States in achieving the ocean-related SDGs by coordinating national actions at the regional level. Thus the Regional Seas programmes set the Regional Seas Strategic Directions (2017-2020) and decided to:

1. Reduce marine pollution of all kinds in line with the SDG Goal 14.1.
2. Create increased resilience of people, marine and coastal ecosystems, and their health and productivity, in line with the SDG Goal 13 and decisions made at the UNFCCC COP21.
3. Develop integrated, ecosystem-based regional ocean policies and strategies for sustainable use of marine and coastal resources, paying close attention to blue growth.
4. Enhance effectiveness of Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans as regional platforms for supporting integrated ocean policies and management.

At the 18th Global Meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans in 2016, the Regional Seas programmes decided to prepare outlook documents which propose how they will support their respective participating countries in the implementation and monitoring of the ocean-related SDGs. These outlook documents will be the guiding documents for future actions towards achieving the SDGs, setting clear regional baselines and targets.

The Regional Seas Programme continues to promote integrated, ecosystem-based approaches. Several regions have already started establishing cooperation with the Regional Fisheries Bodies. In this way, the Regional Seas programmes aim to deliver coordinated assistance to their participating countries in the region. In the coming years, the Programme aims to continue fostering cooperation mechanism with the Regional Fisheries Bodies.

The Regional Seas Programme is in the process of developing a core set of indicators to assess the state of the marine environment. The 22 indicators include 7 fisheries-related indicators. The Programme envisions coordination with the Regional Fisheries Bodies for assessing the marine environment status. Currently, scientific background study is being conducted on the indicators and it is aimed that at least two regions will start using the indicator set by 2020. Indicator-based monitoring would allow quantitative, chronological monitoring of the state of the marine environment.

The Regional Seas Progrogramme has been supporting member states for more than 40 years. While starting new commitments for assisting member states delivery of the SDGs, the Programme is coming to the turning point to look back the past and to address challenges. Thus UN Environment will develop a guideline for effectiveness assessment so that each region will be able to strategize means to improve the delivery of their programmes.
Progress reports
By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
Type of commitment
  • Fertilizer use efficiency
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Coastal clean-ups
  • Plastics product bans or restrictions
  • Plastics recovery/recycling/reuse
  • Management of ship-based pollution and/or port waste management
By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
Type of commitment
  • Community or Locally Managed Marine Areas
  • Integrated Coastal Management
  • Marine Spatial Planning
  • Ecosystem-based Adaptation
  • Other (please specify): ICZM protocols
Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
Type of commitment
  • Coastal carbon sinks/blue carbon
By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
Type of commitment
  • Other (please specify): Cooperation with the Regional Fisheries Bodies
By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
Type of commitment
  • MPA management and/or enforcement
By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
Type of commitment
  • Economic benefits from sustainable fisheries
  • Economic benefits from sustainable tourism
  • Economic benefits from sustainable aquaculture/mariculture
  • Economic benefits from sustainable transport
Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
Type of commitment
  • Data access and sharing
  • Training and professional development
Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want
Type of commitment
  • Activities to raise awareness of the comprehensive legal and policy framework for the sustainable development of oceans and seas, in particular UNCLOS, its Implementing Agreements and other relevant ocean-related instruments and promote their effective im
  • Ratification, accession and acceptance of UNCLOS, its Implementing Agreements and other relevant ocean-related instruments
  • Strengthening ocean governance, for example through the development of a national ocean policy or regional ocean policy
  • Development of necessary infrastructure and/or enforcement capabilities to comply with international law, as reflected in UNCLOS and as complemented by other ocean-related instruments
December 2020
At least 5 regions prepare their implementation outlook describing how they will support the implementation of ocean-related SDGs
December 2020
At least 2 new regions start indicator-based assessment
December 2020
At least 2 additional regions formalize cooperation with Regional Fisheries Bodies
December 2020
At least 3 regions conduct effectiveness assessment
In-kind contribution
Financing (in USD)
2,250,000 USD
In-kind contribution
Basic information
Time-frame: October 2016 - December 2020
Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMRL) (intergovernmental organization) Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) (intergovernmental organization) Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) (intergovernmental organization) The Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (Black Sea Commission) (intergovernmental organization) Tehran Convention (intergovernmental organization) Nairobi convention (intergovernmental organization) Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) (intergovernmental organization) Mediterranean Action Plan/Barcelona Convention (MAP) (intergovernmental organization) OSPAR Commission (OSPAR) (intergovernmental organization) North East Pacific Regional Seas Programme (NEP) (intergovernmental organization) Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP) (intergovernmental organization) Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP) (intergovernmental organization) Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA) (intergovernmental organization) Regional Organisation for Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) (intergovernmental organization) South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP) (intergovernmental organization) Permanent Commission of South Pacific (CPPS) (intergovernmental organization) Abidjan Convention (intergovernmental organization) Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) (intergovernmental organization)
Ocean Basins
  • Arctic Ocean
  • Global
  • Indian Ocean
  • North Atlantic
  • North Pacific
  • South Atlantic
  • South Pacific
  • Southern Ocean
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficaries
More than 143 countries participating in the Regional Seas Programme
Contact information
Kanako Hasegawa, Ms., kanako.hasegawa@unep.org, +254-20-7624791
Nairobi, Kenya
Other SDGs
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