New UNEP report: ‘In Dead Water’

This blog has documented a number of the most important threats facing fisheries and marine ecosystems, including over-exploitation, ocean acidification, harmful fish farming practices, invasive species, and climate change. A new report (PDF) put out by the United Nations Environment Program does a good job of summarizing all of these, as well as providing a good overall picture.

Major conclusions of the report make for sober reading:

  1. Half the World catch is caught in less than 10% of the ocean
  2. With climate change, more than 80% of the World’s coral reefs may die within decades
  3. Ocean acidification will also severely damage cold-water coral reefs and affect negatively other shell-forming organisms
  4. Coastal development is increasing rapidly and is projected to impact 91% of all inhabited coasts by 2050 and will contribute to more than 80% of all marine pollution
  5. Climate change may slow down ocean thermohaline circulation and continental shelf “flushing and cleaning” mechanisms crucial to coastal water quality and nutrient cycling and deep-water production in more than 75% of the World’s fishing grounds
  6. Increased development, coastal pollution and climate change impacts on ocean currents will accelerate the spreading of marine dead zones, many around or in primary fishing grounds
  7. Over-harvesting and bottom trawling are degrading fish habitats and threatening the entire productivity of ocean biodiversity hotspots, making them more vulnerable to climate change
  8. Primary fishing grounds are likely to become increasingly infested by invasive species, many introduced from ship ballast water
  9. The worst concentration of cumulative impacts of climate change with existing pressures of over-harvest, bottom trawling, invasive species, coastal development and pollution appear to be concentrated in 10–15% of the oceans concurrent with today’s most important fishing grounds
  10. A lack of good marine data, poor funding for ocean observations and an ‘out of sight – out of mind’ mentality may have led to greater environmental degradation in the sea than would have been allowed on land
  11. Substantial resources need to be allocated to reducing climate and non-climate pressures. Priority needs to be given to protecting substantial areas of the continental shelves. These initiatives are required to build resilience against climate change and to ensure that further collapses in fish stocks are avoided in coming decades

There is still some debate about which generation will experience the first reeling blows from climate change. It is increasingly clear that the young people of today will be alive to see the collapse of the world’s fisheries and coastal ocean ecosystems.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

3 thoughts on “New UNEP report: ‘In Dead Water’”

  1. It is increasingly clear that the young people of today will be alive to see the collapse of the world’s fisheries and coastal ocean ecosystems.

    One silver-tinged lining to this cloud is that it might finally prove to everyone that human beings can actually wreck something global that has existed for billions of years, and which is really important for human welfare. It might finally silence the minority who still believe that we can keep making ever-more-excessive demands of the planet forever.

  2. Ocean Circulation Doesn’t Work As Expected

    By kdawson on veins-and-arteries-of-the-oceans

    techno-vampire writes with word that a long-accepted model of deep ocean currents is inaccurate. Deep Sea New has a summary of the research, to be published in Nature. The Woods Hole press release has more details. “A 50 year old model of global thermohaline circulation that predicts a deep Atlantic counter current below the Gulf Stream is now formally called into question by an armada of subsurface RAFOS floats drifting 700 – 1500m deep. Nearly 80% of the RAFOS floats escaped the Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC), drifting into the open ocean. This confirms suspicions that have been around since the 1990’s, and likely plays havoc with global models of climate change.”

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