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Global Ocean Commission Report 2014

16 Shifting from Continued Decline to a Cycle of Recovery

1 Rising Demand for Resources

The Drivers of Ocean Decline

In November 2011, the world’s population reached 7 billion people – of which some 2.5 billion live in countries with booming economies and rapidly growing middle classes. As the global population increases, and the middle classes expand worldwide, pressure on living and non-living resources will continue to mount.

For this reason the Commission has analysed closely the multiple, interconnected drivers of ocean – and in particular high seas – decline, and developed a suite of ambitious yet entirely feasible proposals aimed at addressing these pressures and threats, boosting ocean resilience and ushering in a new cycle of regeneration and recovery. By understanding the drivers of decline individually and together, we have come to understand that what is needed is an integrated rescue package which can deliver ocean restoration when undertaken as a whole. We have considered equity, development, sustainability and economic as well as intrinsic values. We have thought about the roles of consumers, intermediaries and markets, politicians, direct users and indirect beneficiaries.

Demand for marine fish as a protein source has reached the farthest corners of the global ocean and its deepest recesses. According to the FAO,17 the amount of wild-caught marine fish increased from 3 million tonnes in 1900 to 16.8 million in 1950, reaching a peak of 86.4 million tonnes in 1996, and since then has remained fairly constant at 80 million tonnes, while 87% of the world’s marine fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. Of the 17 largest fisheries around the world, 15 are either at maximum exploitation levels or are depleting the level of their fish resource base. According to reliable estimates, up to 100 million sharks are killed each year, predominantly for their fins.18 Forage fish like herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines are also under pressure. The decline in these species is critical for the species higher up the food chain that feed on them, and for coastal residents around the world, particularly in developing countries that rely on these fish as their primary source of animal protein.

The high seas are facing a cycle of declining ecosystem health and productivity. It is our joint responsibility to act urgently and decisively to reverse the decline of this immense global commons. Failure to do so would be an unforgivable betrayal of current and future generations.

Achieving our goal: to reverse the degradation of the global ocean, will require action and partnerships among and between governments, the private sector, multilateral institutions, civil society and science. The end result will be a healthy, productive high seas ecosystem able to support Earth’s life systems, providing valuable services vital for human wellbeing and security, and which is more resilient to the impacts of climate change. The alternative is the spectre of continued inequitable, uncontrolled plunder of high seas resources and a degraded, unproductive and overexploited high seas. This alternative is not an option that we wish to consider. There is no Planet B. The one planet we have needs a healthy ocean to survive. The Commission has identified five key drivers of ocean decline.

Global demand for energy is inexhaustible. Since the 1960s, global demand for oil and natural gas has dramatically increased. In developed countries, populations continue to rise, putting pressure on water, sanitation and other requirements. A growing taste for comfort and convenience demands air conditioning and heating systems, transport solutions, entertainment activities and a range of other, related, energyhungry luxuries. The less developed world is also becoming more sophisticated and more populous and demand is growing from the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations and other areas to place even more pressure on natural resources.i Demand for minerals is also predicted to increase, both to sustain economic growth and to support green and emerging technologies. Demand for copper, for example, has quadrupled since the 1960s,19 while rare earth elements such as tellurium, neodymium and niobium – barely used before 1950 – are highly sought after today for new technologies including solar cells, batteries, smartphones and tablets as well as for use in super alloys and superconductors. As ore grades from conventional mineral deposits on land decline over time, high-grade marine mineral deposits become increasingly attractive to investors.

i Renewables such as solar, wind and tidal options present an alternative to conventional fossil and other energy sources, but governments are still failing to provide adequate incentives.

From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean (Full Report)  

The Global Ocean Commission has been on a voyage of discovery about the global ocean – its importance, its peril and its potential. They lis...

From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean (Full Report)  

The Global Ocean Commission has been on a voyage of discovery about the global ocean – its importance, its peril and its potential. They lis...