Blue Economy ESG and Climate Risk

Catalysing Action for Our Ocean & Climate through Underwater Domain Awareness

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  • India has an extensive coastline and rich marine biodiversity, making World Oceans Day significant for conservation efforts to maintain ecological balance and biodiversity.
  • Oceans play a crucial role in India’s economy through fisheries, shipping, tourism, and offshore industries, necessitating sustainable resource management to support livelihoods and economic growth.
  • Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) is essential for effective ocean management. It involves marine research, surveillance, and data analysis to protect marine ecosystems and promote sustainable practices.
  • Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) is essential for effective ocean management. It involves marine research, surveillance, and data analysis to protect marine ecosystems and promote sustainable practices.
  • Comprehensive strategies are needed to tackle ocean and climate challenges, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting marine ecosystems, adapting to climate impacts, and promoting sustainable practices in ocean-based industries.

World Oceans Day, celebrated annually on June 8th, highlights the critical role of oceans in sustaining life on Earth. This day holds profound significance for India with an extensive coastline, rich marine biodiversity, and a significant dependence on ocean resources. The theme for World Oceans Day 2024, “Awaken New Depths,” alludes to the growing need to understand our underwater systems and look deep into the nuances of ocean functions.

India’s geographical, ecological, economic, and cultural connections to the ocean are diverse. With a coastline touching the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal, India is inherently a maritime nation. The country’s marine ecosystems are home to diverse species, making their conservation crucial for maintaining ecological balance and biodiversity. Furthermore, the oceans are integral to India’s economy, supporting industries such as fisheries, shipping, tourism, and offshore oil and gas exploration.

“The role of oceans in regulating the Earth’s climate and weather patterns is undeniable in the context of climate change. Rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events pose significant threats to coastal communities and infrastructure. Therefore, World Oceans Day is a crucial reminder of the need to address these global challenges and catalyse action for our oceans' protection and sustainable management.”

What are the major environmental impacts?

India’s extensive coastline is home to diverse and vibrant marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, and estuaries. These habitats support many marine species, from corals and fish to marine mammals like dolphins and whales. The health of these ecosystems is vital for maintaining biodiversity and ecological balance.

However, these ecosystems face numerous threats, including pollution, overfishing, habitat destruction, and climate change. Pollution from land-based sources, such as plastic waste, agricultural runoff, and industrial discharges, harms marine life and water quality. Overfishing and destructive fishing practices, such as bottom trawling, deplete fish stocks and damage marine habitats.

Climate change exacerbates these challenges by causing ocean warming, acidification, and sea-level rise. Coral reefs, for instance, are highly sensitive to temperature changes, and even slight increases can lead to coral bleaching and mortality. Rising sea levels threaten coastal ecosystems and human settlements, while ocean acidification affects the health of shell-forming organisms, including many plankton species, mollusks, and corals.

To address these environmental challenges, it is essential to implement comprehensive conservation and management strategies. This includes establishing marine protected areas (MPAs), promoting sustainable fishing practices, reducing pollution, and restoring degraded habitats. MPAs, in particular, play a crucial role in preserving marine biodiversity and enhancing the resilience of ecosystems to climate change.

How do oceans contribute to the economic value of a nation?

The oceans contribute significantly to India’s economy through various sectors, including fisheries, shipping, tourism, and offshore industries. The fishing industry, in particular, is a major source of livelihood for millions of people living along the coast. Sustainable fisheries management is essential to ensure this sector’s long-term viability and prevent overexploitation of marine resources.

Shipping is another vital industry, with India being a key player in global maritime trade. The country’s strategic location along major shipping routes makes its ports and shipping infrastructure crucial for economic development. Sustainable shipping practices, including adopting cleaner fuels and technologies, are necessary to minimise the environmental impact of maritime transport.

Tourism, particularly coastal and marine tourism, is a growing sector in India, attracting millions of domestic and international visitors annually. Popular destinations like Goa, Kerala, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Lakshadweep offer opportunities for diving, snorkelling, and other water-based activities. Promoting eco-friendly tourism practices and conserving natural attractions are essential to ensure the sustainability of this industry.

Offshore industries, such as oil and gas exploration, also contribute to India’s economy. However, these activities pose significant environmental risks, including oil spills and habitat destruction. Implementing stringent environmental regulations and adopting best practices can help mitigate these risks and promote sustainable development.

India’s rich cultural heritage and maritime history

India has a deep-rooted maritime history and a rich cultural heritage connected to the oceans. Coastal communities have long relied on the sea for their livelihoods, and the ocean has played a central role in shaping their traditions, customs, and beliefs. From ancient maritime trade routes to traditional fishing practices, the cultural significance of the ocean is woven into the fabric of Indian society.

“World Oceans Day provides an opportunity to celebrate this cultural connection and to promote awareness of the need to protect and preserve marine heritage. Engaging local communities in conservation efforts, promoting traditional knowledge and practices, and fostering a sense of stewardship for the ocean is crucial for sustainable marine management.”

The role played by oceans in climate regulation

Oceans play a critical role in regulating the Earth’s climate by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They act as a buffer against the impacts of climate change, but this comes at a cost. The absorption of excess carbon dioxide leads to ocean acidification, which affects marine organisms and ecosystems. Additionally, rising ocean temperatures contribute to the melting of polar ice caps and the thermal expansion of seawater, resulting in sea-level rise.

India’s long coastline and densely populated coastal areas make it particularly vulnerable to climate change’s impacts. Rising sea levels threaten coastal infrastructure, agriculture, freshwater resources, and the livelihoods of millions of people. Extreme weather events, such as cyclones and storm surges, are becoming more frequent and intense, causing significant damage to coastal communities. To mitigate the impacts of climate change on the oceans, it is essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable energy sources. This includes investing in solar, wind, and hydropower and promoting energy efficiency and conservation measures. Protecting and restoring marine ecosystems, such as mangroves and seagrasses, can enhance their capacity to sequester carbon and act as natural buffers against climate impacts

Global Commitment

“World Oceans Day is an opportunity for India to reaffirm its commitment to international agreements and collaborative efforts to conserve the oceans. This includes participating in initiatives such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goal 14, which focuses on conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas, and marine resources.”

India can also lead regional and global forums, advocating for stronger measures to protect the oceans and address climate change. Collaborative efforts with neighbouring countries and international organisations can enhance the effectiveness of conservation and management strategies, promote knowledge sharing, and facilitate the implementation of best practices.

Catalysing Action for Our Ocean & Climate

Catalysing action for our ocean and climate refers to the urgent need for coordinated efforts to address the interconnected challenges facing the oceans and the climate. This involves implementing comprehensive strategies encompassing mitigation, adaptation, conservation, and sustainable development.

1. Mitigating Climate Change: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial to mitigating climate change’s impacts on the oceans. This involves transitioning to renewable energy sources, promoting energy efficiency, and implementing policies to reduce carbon emissions. By mitigating climate change, we can reduce the stress on marine ecosystems and enhance their resilience.

2.Protecting Marine Ecosystems: Conservation efforts are essential to protect and restore marine ecosystems. This includes establishing marine protected areas, promoting sustainable fisheries management, and restoring degraded habitats. Protecting marine ecosystems preserves biodiversity and enhances their capacity to support livelihoods and provide essential ecosystem services.

3.Adapting to Change: Climate change already affects oceans and coastal communities, necessitating adaptation strategies. This includes measures such as coastal protection infrastructure, sustainable land-use planning, and community-based adaptation initiatives. By enhancing the resilience of coastal communities and ecosystems, we can mitigate the impacts of sea-level rise, storms, and ocean acidification.

4.Promoting Sustainable Practices: Sustainable practices in ocean-based industries, such as fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, and tourism, are essential to reduce pressure on marine resources while supporting economic development. This includes adopting eco-friendly technologies, reducing bycatch, limiting habitat destruction, and promoting sustainable tourism practices.

Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA)

Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) is critical to effective ocean management. It involves monitoring and understanding the underwater environment to inform decision-making and promote the sustainable use of marine resources. UDA encompasses various aspects, including marine research, surveillance, data collection, and analysis.

1.Marine Research and Exploration: Scientific research and exploration of the underwater environment are essential to enhancing our understanding of marine ecosystems, biodiversity, and oceanographic processes. This includes mapping the seafloor, studying marine species and habitats, and monitoring environmental changes. Research findings can inform conservation and management strategies and support sustainable development initiatives.

2. Surveillance and Monitoring: Effective surveillance and monitoring of the underwater domain are crucial for detecting and addressing threats to marine ecosystems. This includes monitoring illegal fishing activities, tracking marine pollution, and detecting water quality and temperature changes. Advanced technologies, such as remote sensing, underwater drones, and acoustic monitoring systems, can enhance surveillance capabilities and provide real-time data for informed decision-making.

3. Data Collection and Analysis: Collecting and analysing data on the underwater environment is essential for understanding the impacts of human activities and climate change on marine ecosystems. This includes data on water quality, biodiversity, fish stocks, and habitat conditions. Comprehensive data collection and analysis can support evidence-based policymaking, improve resource management, and facilitate adaptive management approaches.

4. Capacity Building and Collaboration: Building capacity and fostering stakeholder collaboration are crucial for effective UDA. This includes training and equipping local communities, researchers, and enforcement agencies with the necessary skills and tools to monitor and protect the underwater environment. Collaboration between governments, research institutions, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector can enhance knowledge sharing, promote best practices, and support coordinated efforts to conserve and sustainably manage marine resources.


World Oceans Day is a vital reminder of the importance of ocean conservation, sustainable resource management, and addressing the interconnected challenges of climate change. With its extensive coastline, rich marine biodiversity, and dependence on ocean resources, this day holds significant relevance for India.

Catalysing action for our oceans and climate through underwater domain awareness is essential to protecting marine ecosystems, supporting sustainable development, and enhancing the resilience of coastal communities. By implementing comprehensive strategies encompassing mitigation, adaptation, conservation, and sustainable practices, we can ensure the health and sustainability of our oceans for future generations.

As the tides are changing, it is imperative for India and the global community to prioritise ocean health, promote collaborative efforts, and reaffirm their commitment to conserving the oceans. Together, we can safeguard the oceans’ invaluable contributions to life on Earth and ensure a sustainable and resilient future for all.


J Cathrine

About Author

J Cathrine heads the Publication and Research team at the Maritime Research Centre in Pune. Previously, her work revolved around water management in the Indus Basin. Her research focuses on transboundary water issues, conflict resolution, sustainable water management, and community resilience. She graduated from St. Stephens College in Delhi with a bachelor’s degree in physics. She has also completed Ashoka University’s Young India Fellowship in Liberal Arts. She has completed her Masters in Water Science and Policy from Shiv Nadar University.