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Mapping ocean governance and regulation

The ocean is referred to as the new economic frontier, with a capacity for significant economic growth in both traditional and emerging ocean-based industries and fostering human well-being through its vital contributions to food security, regulating the climate and providing natural resources and renewable energy. Managing the opportunities related to the ocean, however, must be balanced with due regard to threats to the ocean environment such as over-exploitation, pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change.

Global ocean governance rests on the foundation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the framework within which a mosaic of different legal and non-legal institutions rests. It includes international and national governance, in which governments and various public bodies are the primary actors. But it also encompasses private governance initiatives led by companies and other non-state actors such as environmental organisations. Private governance mechanisms, including standards, best practices and certification schemes, complement public governance.

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This report aims to provide a brief overview of rules, institutions, processes, agreements, arrangements and activities carried out to manage the use of the ocean. Underpinned by the Law of the Sea, it focuses on the governance of six ocean-based industries: international shipping, offshore oil and gas, offshore renewable energy, marine aquaculture, marine fisheries and seabed mining.  For each of the industries, a few examples of private sector driven initiatives focusing on the sustainable management of the oceans are also provided. There are a number of governance issues related to the effectiveness of current regimes and the need to address the increasing pressures on the ocean. These are exemplified through sector-specific lenses on effective implementation and enforcement of conventions, the need for collaboration between different organisations and greater consistency across different jurisdictions. Finally, this report focuses on governance issues related to three of the most prominent cross-cutting challenges to the ocean: climate change, biodiversity loss and ocean plastics.