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The first 'Ocean Challenge', launched on 6 January 2020 and closed on 5 March 2020. The challenge sought innovative solutions to counter the scourge of ocean pollution. Nutrient pollution loads to the oceans have tripled since pre-industrial times, now approaching around 13 million metric tons (mt) per year, leading to exponential growth in eutrophication and the occurrence of hypoxic (low oxygen) areas, now numbering over 500 and causing hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage annually. Globally, there are only a handful of examples (such as the Danube/Black Sea basin) where nutrient loads have been reduced sufficiently to reverse and eliminate hypoxic areas, hence much work remains to be done on this SDG target.

Of the over 300 million metric tons(mt) of plastics produced globally each year, some 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons reach the ocean impacting negatively on marine organisms and ecosystems. Only about 9 percent of the over 2 billion mt of plastic produced to date has been recycled, so we remain a long way from truly 'closing the loop' on ocean plastics pollution. UNEP estimate the annual damage from marine plastics at USD $13 billion per year and growing. Rivers represent a major vector for the introduction of plastics to the ocean, transporting between 9 and 50 percent of the total.

SDG 14.1 calls for "By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution".

What are some examples of the types of innovative initiatives that could be funded?

The OIC's first Ocean Challenge focused on SDG14.1, Ocean pollution, with a strong focus on nutrients and plastics from land-based sources (such as agriculture, wastewater and poorly managed solid waste) while recognizing that ocean-based sources are also important sources for some types of plastics pollution (such as abandoned/lost fishing nets).

Meet our first cohort of Ocean Innovators on marine pollution reduction. Read also the news about the Ocean Innovators on the UNDP Newsroom.


While by no means exhaustive, some general examples of the types of innovations that could be considered include: