UN assessment shows ocean benefits are being undermined by human activities
The world is at risk of losing many of the benefits the ocean provides, warns the latest United Nations assessment on the state of the world’s ocean, which was released last week, ahead of Earth Day (22 April).
The first World Ocean Assessment (WOA I), released in 2015, had warned that many areas of the ocean had been seriously degraded, mostly due to the failure to deal with the pressures caused by human activities, including fishing, aquaculture, shipping, oil and gas exploitation, pollution and the release of greenhouse gases.
The latest assessment notes that the situation has not improved — and that many of the benefits that the ocean provides to people such as oxygen, food, jobs, medicine and climate regulation are increasingly being undermined by human activities.
Considered the only comprehensive global analysis that looks at social, environmental, demographic and economic trends affecting the state of the ocean, the assessment calls for an integrated sustainable management of coasts and the ocean, driven by science, technology and innovation.
“Better understanding of the ocean is essential,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the launch. “As the assessment makes clear, ocean sustainability depends on us all working together – including through joint research, capacity development and the sharing of data, information and technology.”
Despite improvements in our understanding of the state of the world’s ocean and its marine life in recent years, there are still significant gaps in scientific knowledge and capacity needed to ensure responsive policies that can help restore and sustain ocean health.
“We have only seen about ten percent of the ocean. So much of the ocean is yet to be explored and understood,” said Dr Sylvia Earle, Marine Biologist and President of Mission Blue. “This is the time to step back and dive in to really look at the problem; look at the solutions to see how the interests of humankind are so connected to the ocean.”
“The ocean is in trouble,” she added. “We need the ocean and the ocean now needs us to take care of the systems that make our existence possible.”
Ocean Science and Technology
“The Regular Process [the assessment] is absolutely key for developing the priorities for ocean science because it identifies stressors and impact – and this gives us information about where we have to find solutions,” said Vladimir Ryabinin, head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission – the body responsible for supporting global ocean and science, including the implementation of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021 to 2030).
The assessment informs the critical work taking place during the Decade of Ocean Science and the soon to be launched UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021 to 2030) – both established to address the growing need for knowledge and capacity to safeguard the health of and improve people’s relationship with the natural environment.
Recent decades have allowed a better understanding of the marine environment, prompting responses for mitigating or reducing pressures and their associated impacts on the ocean. According to the assessment, analysis of the impacts of pressures and their cumulative effects remains limited, consequently leading to a general failure to understand, safeguard and put in place integrated management of the ocean and coasts. Going forward, further advancing ocean science and technology, and ensuring a robust science-policy interface are critical to achieving sustainable ocean management.
The story was published on UN News Centre, reposted via PACNEWS.