Working through its four Regional Activity Centres (RACs), each located in a Member State and coordinated by the Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU), NOWPAP's activities are concentrating in the four core areas aimed to prevent and reverse increasing degradation of the marine and coastal environment in one of the world’s most impacted by human activities and natural changes region:
1) Support ecosystem-based integrated coastal and river basin management
Given the contrasting variety of natural and socioeconomic conditions of marine and coastal areas, an ecosystem-based approach has been found to be most effective for sustainable development of the Northwest Pacific marine and coastal environment. NOWPAP, in collaboration with partners, supports Member States applying ecosystem-based management policies, tools and practices for healthy and productive marine and coastal ecosystems.
2) Assess status of the marine and coastal environment
NOWPAPs work in monitoring and analysing pressures on the marine and coastal environment are summarized in the regular integrated ecosystem assessment reports. The Pollution Monitoring Regional Activity Centre (POMRAC), based in Vladivostok, leads NOWPAP monitoring of marine pollutants, in particular those from atmospheric and riverine sources as well as direct inputs of contaminants to the marine and coastal environment. POMRAC publishes the NOWPAP flagship State of the Marine Environment Report (SOMER). The third SOMER to be published in the next few years will be a holistic assessment of atmospheric and land- and sea-based pollution threats to Northwest Pacific marine and coastal ecosystems. POMRAC has also developed Ecological Quality Objectives as benchmarks to assess threats to the region’s marine and coastal environment from anthropogenic pressures, alien species, eutrophication, contaminants and marine litter. Sectoral targets and indicators related to SDGs indicators for the Ecological Quality Objectives are being formulated.
The Data and Information Network Regional Activity Centre (DINRAC) is located in Beijing and promotes regional cooperation and exchange of information on the Northwest Pacific marine and coastal environment. DINRAC maintains the following databases (available at the DINRAC website): on major environmental data, on NOWPAP coastal and marine environmental Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing applications, on marine litter, on coastal and marine nature reserves, NOWPAP publications, and NOWPAP institutions and experts. DINRAC also hosts the Northwest Pacific Regional Node of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter.
3) Prevent and reduce land- and sea-based pollution
The densely populated NOWPAP region, a global economic powerhouse sitting astride major commercial shipping routes, is subject to multiple anthropogenic pressures, manifested in increasing marine litter, eutrophication and marine oil and chemical spill incidents. NOWPAP supports Member States with capacity building, data and information, guidelines and best practices to prevent and reduce land- and sea-based pollution. A new area of focus is microplastics pollution. Home to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the NOWPAP region is highly vulnerable to oil and hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) spills at sea. The Marine Environmental Emergency Preparedness and Response Regional Activity Centre (MERRAC) based in Daejeon, Republic of Korea, established jointly by UNEP and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), promotes regional cooperation in responding to marine pollution emergencies through the NOWPAP Regional Oil and HNS Spill Contingency Plan (RCP) adopted in 2008. Full-scale oil and HNS spill response exercises are held regularly by maritime authorities of the member states.
NOWPAP has been responding since 2005 to the growing threat of marine litter in the Northwest Pacific. This includes data collection, assessments, development of best practices, and regional coordination. Participation of all stakeholders is central to the NOWPAP Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP MALI) adopted by Member States in 2008. Regional Activity Centres and RCU are working jointly in this area. Sectoral guidelines for marine litter management focused on the fishing, shipping and tourism industries have been published. Public awareness and participation have been mobilized through annual International Coastal Clean-up Campaigns organized in each NOWPAP country since 2006. Governments, the private sector and civil society have been involved in the reduction, monitoring and removal of marine litter from Northwest Pacific coasts and seas. Since 2015, marine litter issues in the region are discussed annually in the NOWPAP and TEMM (Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting involving China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) Joint Marine Litter Workshops.
4) Conserve marine and coastal biodiversity
The wealth of fauna and flora inhabiting Northwest Pacific seas and shores faces a growing threat from alien species, habitat destruction, over-fishing and climate change. NOWPAP continues investing its resources in biodiversity assessments and supports Member States with planning and application of area-based conservation tools. Work in this area will be capped with the development of a Regional Action Plan on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Conservation by the end of Medium-term Strategy period in 2023. The Special Monitoring and Coastal Environmental Assessment Regional Activity Centre (CEARAC) based in Toyama, assesses threats to the Northwest Pacific’s marine and coastal biodiversity from invasive species and harmful algal blooms, eutrophication, habitat modifications and other pressures. CEARAC assessments have generated significant new technical data to support national policy responses to environmental threats from eutrophication, hypoxia, harmful algal blooms (HABs), marine litter and to pressures on seagrass habitats.
The NOWPAP Medium-term Strategy (MTS) for 2018-2023, endorsed by Member States in June 2018, envisions “a resilient Northwest Pacific marine and coastal environment, supporting sustainable development for the long-term benefit of present and future generations”. The MTS envisages a leadership responsibility for NOWPAP in the regional implementation of the ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular SDG 14 “Life Below Water” and SDG 17 “Partnerships for the Goals” as well as SDGs 6, 8, 11, 12, 13 and 15.
NOWPAP will implement MTS 2018-2023 focusing on the following areas having the following expected impacts by 2030: