Creating a sea change: a WWF/IUCN vision for our blue planet


[Text reprinted from the 3-ply A4 brochure summarizing the WWF/IUCN Marine Policy, issued in early June 1998. Photos and sidebars are omitted in this reprint; references to the Ramsar Convention are bolded in red. For copies of the brochure and/or the full WWF/IUCN Marine Policy, contact WWF International, Marine Programme, or IUCN-USA,]

Creating a sea change: a wwf/iucn vision for our blue planet

sea-change.jpg (33691 bytes)The surface of our blue planet is 70 per cent water, all but 3 per cent of it salt water. Life began in the oceans at least 3.5 billion years ago, preceding terrestrial life by several hundred million years. For generations, we considered the ocean's bounty limitless and were confident the seas could feed us and absorb our wastes forever.

In the past 50 years we have put the life of these oceans in peril. We are taking too many fish; dumping too much waste; converting too much coastal area into urban and industrial sites; destroying critical ecosystems on which marine wildlife, including commercial fish, depends; and tackling individual ocean and coastal issues in isolation rather than considering how one impacts another.

WWF-World Wide Fund For Nature and IUCN-The World Conservation Union, two of the world's leading conservation organizations, have jointly developed a global marine policy, Creating a Sea Change, calling for action that will:

  • ensure the future of the oceans and conserve their rich living diversity
  • secure the future for the millions of people who depend on the oceans for their livelihoods.

A global marine policy

Creating a Sea Change identifies five objectives for protecting the oceans, and lays out activities to help international institutions, governments, conservation organizations including WWF and IUCN, industry, communities, and individuals to implement them.


The establishment and implementation of a comprehensive, global network of ecologically representative, well-managed MARINE PROTECTED AREAS (MPAs) designed to conserve areas of high biological importance and productivity.


1.1 Assist in developing, strengthening, and implementing regional and global agreements, such as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, for the establishment and management of MPAs.

1.2 Ensure that this global network is truly representative by including sanctuaries for whales and other pelagic species, and MPAs in offshore, transboundary, and international waters.

1.3 Improve the management of MPAs by: preparing and implementing management plans; building capacity at local and national levels; developing sustainable financing mechanisms; and establishing programmes for research, monitoring, and evaluation.


The conservation and recovery of THREATENED MARINE SPECIES.


2.1 Assist in the identification of priorities for action to conserve threatened marine species by supporting the continuing development and application of the IUCN Red List, as well as regional and national lists of threatened species.

2.2 Support the preparation and implementation of Species Action and Recovery Plans.

2.3 Reduce exploitation of threatened species by: monitoring and regulating international trade using global mechanisms such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the International Whaling Commission; and demonstrating sustainable use through activities including whale-watching and traditional forms of subsistence use.

2.4 Improve the understanding of, and work to mitigate, the impact of such threats as: toxic chemical pollution; commercial fisheries; the introduction of alien species; and global climate change.


The introduction of measures to ensure that FISHING is carried out in a SUSTAINABLE MANNER, in order to conserve genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity.


3.1 Promote conservation, species recovery, and the ecosystem management approach by:

assisting in the implementation of regional and global fisheries agreements, such as the United Nations Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks and the Food and Agriculture Organization's Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries; facilitating the development and implementation of recovery plans for depleted species; and encouraging the appropriate establishment of no-fishing zones.

3.2 Reform economic and social policies that have led to overfishing by: developing valid principles, criteria, and indicators of sustainable fisheries; supporting voluntary certification and labeling initiatives based on such criteria; developing mechanisms to reduce both the impact of northern fisheries on southern countries and subsidies that encourage overfishing; and supporting efforts to develop sustainable alternatives.

3.3 Reduce the negative impacts of fishing gears and practices, such as poisons and explosives, on marine habitats and non-target species by: strengthening law enforcement; developing alternative fishing methods and training fishers to use them; and promoting the use of by-catch reduction devices, including turtle excluders, and other appropriate gear modifications.

3.4 Develop environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable aquaculture that does not damage the marine and coastal environment by: producing globally acceptable guidelines; identifying and demonstrating methods, techniques, and policies; establishing mechanisms to ensure that such guidelines are implemented, including independent third-party certification systems; and promoting the adoption and implementation of appropriate regulatory frameworks.


The reduction and elimination of MARINE POLLUTION from land-based and marine sources.


4.1 Increase awareness among decision makers and the general public of the threat to marine biodiversity and human activities dependent on the sea from toxic chemicals such as endocrine disruptors, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and pesticides.

4.2 Ensure that the issue of toxic chemicals is addressed in: appropriate intergovernmental fora including the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance; the United Nations Regional Seas Programme and other regional agreements; and the proposed global agreements to eliminate the use of POPs and organotins used in anti-fouling paints.

4.3 Promote the introduction and implementation of government restrictions on, or phase-outs of, selected toxic chemicals, and reduce reliance on chemicals such as DDT by identifying and promoting alternative non-chemical approaches at the national and community levels.

4.4 Help to strengthen global mechanisms and agreements for the monitoring and reduction of pollution from shipping and offshore industries by: encouraging the development of an international code of conduct for shipping and of internationally accepted environmental principles for offshore industries; increasing the understanding of the impact of oil spills and the need for risk reduction strategies; and promoting the identification of areas that are particularly at risk from shipping.

4.5 Raise awareness that non-toxic pollutants can have a detrimental effect on the marine environment, and promote activities at global, regional, and national levels that reduce sedimentation and nutrient enrichment.


The promotion of INTEGRATED COASTAL MANAGEMENT (ICM) as an underlying principle in the sustainable management of marine and coastal ecosystems.


5.1 Assist in the development, strengthening, and implementation of regional and international frameworks for ICM.

5.2 Assist in the establishment of ICM programmes and strengthen their implementation by: developing guidelines, principles, and implementing mechanisms; supporting the development of demonstration or model projects; and preparing training materials.

5.3 Increase political support and awareness of the need for ICM by identifying and disseminating information on lessons learned.

5.4 Ensure that considerations of climate change are incorporated into marine and coastal conservation planning.

The goals of the WWF/IUCN global marine strategy are:

  • to maintain the biodiversity and ecological processes of marine and coastal ecosystems
  • to ensure that any use of marine resources is both sustainable and equitable
  • to restore marine and coastal ecosystems where their functioning has been impaired.

WWF and IUCN believe that certain overriding principles must be recognized for the sustainable management and conservation of the oceans:

  • all measures and practices to conserve biodiversity and ecological processes must take human needs into account
  • the concept of stewardship must be fostered through education and by increasing awareness at all levels
  • communities must be empowered to protect and manage their marine and coastal resources
  • local and national capacity for the effective management of marine and coastal ecosystems must be increased
  • social and economic incentives for conservation and sustainable use must be created
  • the interconnectedness of the oceans must be recognized through appropriate cooperative transboundary and international mechanisms
  • the precautionary approach must be applied and an ecosystem-based approach to management fostered
  • all management solutions must be based on the best available science and knowledge, with encouragement given to the acquisition, dissemination, and exchange of information.
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