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.
Updates to voluntary commitment
At least 5 regions prepare their implementation outlook describing how they will support the implementation of ocean-related SDGs
At least 2 new regions start indicator-based assessment
At least 2 additional regions formalize cooperation with Regional Fisheries Bodies
At least 3 regions conduct effectiveness assessment