The Asia-Pacific region – home of Indian and Pacific Oceans, and two-thirds of the world's population – has benefited from healthy oceans and marine resources which have contributed to economic growth and poverty reduction in the region. However, the well-being of the ocean has been deteriorating at an unprecedented rate as a result of a multitude of issues including marine pollution, eutrophication, overfishing and climate change – the development gains over the past decades are at risk of being unsustainable. Ocean data and statistics as well as related institutions that are to support sustainable development policies are largely fragmented, partly owing to a lack of coherent statistical guidance with respect to the ocean.
In 2018 the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) initiated work in the area of ocean data, statistics and policy building on its experience in the implementation of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA). The work focused on (i) enhancing partnerships on ocean-related statistics and governance, (ii) providing reliable statistical guidance on ocean accounting, and (iii) building national capacity to produce and apply ocean accounts for national ocean policy and priorities through national pilot studies.
The pilot studies on ocean accounts were instrumental not only in assessing national ocean priorities, governance mechanisms, and data availability but also creating anational community of practice and strengthening interdepartmental collaboration among scientists, statisticians and policy experts. The studies resulted in policy-driven data standardization and integration: China developed harmonized ecosystem maps and carbon stock assessments of Beihai Bay, one of China’s important marine ecological sites; Malaysia examined food security risk along the Straits of Malacca under climate variability and changes in ecosystems; the sustainable tourism focus of Samoa, Thailand and Viet Nam enhanced the understanding of linkages between tourism income, natural resource use, land-based pollution, and ecosystem impacts. The pilot studies demonstrated how the ocean accounts framework, described in GOAP's Technical Guidance, could guide the harmonization and integration of ocean-related data to inform important national policy priorities, and how they contributed to further development and experimentation of the framework. In addition, the Global Ocean Accounts Partnership (GOAP) since its founding by ESCAP and University of New South Wales has expanded its members and partners towards a global community of practice for ocean accounting as a platform for mutual learning and support to enhancing policy-relevant applications of ocean accounts particularly at the national levels.
ESCAP maintains a Regional Ocean Accounts Platform and associated community of practice as a contribution to the GOAP, and has developed the following resources:
Workshop presentations and materials
- The first Regional Expert Workshop on Ocean Accounts (Bangkok, Aug. 1-3, 2018)
- The First Global Dialogue on Ocean Accounting (Sydney, Nov. 12-15, 2019)
- Scoping reports, presentations and final reports for Ocean Accounts National Pilots in China, Canada, Malaysia, Samoa, Thailand and Vietnam
- Training materials specific to the Ocean Accounts Framework (Overview, Tools and Methods, Linking to the SEEA Central Framework, Ecosystem Extent and Condition, Ecosystem Services Supply and Use, group exercises)
- Training materials on environment statistics in general (FDES, SEEA Central Framework, SEEA Ecosystems)
- A Global Ocean Data Inventory (report and table), which includes descriptions of data on spatial units, ecosystems and their condition, services provided by these ecosystems and how these services are used
Related ESCAP products
- Assessing progress on SDG14 data availability and reporting: Navigating Life Below Water in Asia and the Pacific
- Assessing progress on SDG14.2.1 (Proportion of national exclusive economic zones managed using ecosystem-based approaches): Asia-Pacific Marine Spatial Planning Snapshot 2009-2019
- Establishing the feasibility of Mapping Global Ocean Ecosystems and the feasibility of integrating these data into a user-centric Pacific Ocean Accounting Portal
- Stats Brief, February 2020 (Issue no. 22): Ocean Accounts: the icing on the cake