Underwater banner reading "Marine Reserves Now!" next to octopus in Menorca, Spain.
The Earth's surface is 70 percent covered by ocean, and
three-quarters of humanity live in coastal areas. We are hugely
dependent on marine resources - yet our oceans are facing threats
that include overfishing, toxic pollution, climate change and
A new report from the prestigious Worldwatch
Institute, Oceans in Peril: Protecting Marine Biodiversity,
calls for these marine reserves - areas where all extractive and
destructive activities, including fishing are prohibited - while
giving an alarming snapshot of the shocking state of the world's
oceans. It's a wake-up call that should jolt the complacency of
policy makers worldwide.
Written for the Worldwatch Institute by a team of experts - this
time from the Greenpeace Science Unit in the UK's Exeter University
- Oceans in Peril updates an earlier study by the same team in
1998. They have been staggered by the scale and rate of destruction
that has taken place in less than a decade in every ocean on
©Greenpeace/Grace Sharks entangled in a
The Science Unit provides crucial scientific expertise to our
campaigns, and has a long history of working on oceans issues,
including whaling, toxic pollution, climate change and
"Recent studies such as the one which shows how 90 percent of
the world's large predatory fish, which include the sharks,
swordfish and tuna, have disappeared due to overfishing since the
1950s have helped expose what has been happening under the waves
and have therefore been out of sight and out of mind to most
people", says Paul Johnston, Greenpeace's chief scientist.
Oceans in Peril details new and emerging threats, such the
increasing acidification of the world's oceans, and underscores how
the race for ever-diminishing resources is forcing marine
ecosystems to the point of collapse.
The report illustrates how 76 percent of the world's fish stocks
are fully or overexploited, an estimate borne out by figures from
the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which
suggest that 158 million tons of fish were harvested worldwide in
2005 - a seven-fold increase since 1950. Catch records between
1950 and 2000 show the "collapse" of 366 out 1,519 fisheries
worldwide, most famously the
Grand Banks cod fishery off Newfoundland.
©Greenpeace/Grace Orange Roughy and
bycatch in the Tasman Sea
Oceans in Peril also details the pitfalls of fish farming, the
supposed magic bullet of marine resources with alarming statistics:
producing carnivorous animals such as salmon or marine shrimp
requires 2.5 as much fishmeal as the amount of saleable fish
eventually produced. For tuna caught in the wild and fattened in
"ranches", the weight of fish fed to the tuna is a shocking 20
times more than what is actually produced.
The damage to thousands of marine animals and entire ecosystems
by the likes of longlining and bottom trawling, as well as
overfishing off the coast of developing countries, is exacerbated
the estimated 20 percent of the global catch that is illegal,
unregulated or unreported, and worth somewhere between US$4-9
billion a year. While countries with enough resources to control
their own waters stand some chance of putting measures in place to
protect resources, there's little or no regulation of any kind of
marine harvesting in international waters - an issue that needs to
be urgently addressed at an international level.
500-year old Gorgonian Coral trawled from
the sea bottom by a fish net. (Image ©Ministry of Fisheries NZ)
But it's not all doom and gloom - there is a beam of sunshine in
the report, including a comprehensive package of measures that if
implemented could reverse current trends, restoring the former
productivity of our planet's oceans. That solution is the
establishment of comprehensive marine reserves all over the world,
protecting vulnerable species and habitats, enhancing fisheries
beyond the reserve boundaries, and buffering the worst impacts of
Marine reserves are the single most powerful tool available for
arresting and reversing the decline of our oceans and are equally
applicable to the high seas as they are to coastal waters. The
oceans have immense powers of regeneration and wherever in the
world marine reserves have been established marine life is
If we want fish tomorrow, we need marine reserves today.
You can help us convince governments and the UN that we need to
protect our oceans by creating a global network of marine reserves
by signing our petition:
Let the Oceans recover
I support the Greenpeace plan to protect 40 percent of the
world's oceans as Marine Reserves.
Here's some fun: Take the Oceans in Peril
We can restore our oceans to abundance and ensure a sustainable future for fisheries communities by taking action now to protect 40 percent of our world's oceans with no-take Marine Reserves. Help pressure the UN to take action.
We need your help to continue defending our oceans. Become a financial supporter of Greenpeace today.