Ocean is worth at least $24 trillion and needs protecting

Photo credit: Federico Cabello, National Geographic Your Shot

Photo credit: Federico Cabello, National Geographic Your Shot

A new report released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that the ocean is worth is over 24 trillion US dollars.

Approximately $2.5 trillion dollars’ worth of goods and services is obtained from the oceans every year and that is just a conservative estimate. Activities and assets including fishing, aquaculture, tourism, coastal storm protection, trade and transportation make up this huge “gross marine product”.

The total economic value places the oceans as the seventh largest economy, just behind that of the UK and in front of those of Brazil, Italy, Russia and India. The authors of the report believe the figures are a substantial underestimate since it does not include oil, wind power and intangible factors such as the oceans’ role in regulating climate and storing carbon.

Despite this incredible economic value, we are not restoring or protecting the world’s oceans nearly enough. The WWF study compares neglecting to protect the ocean’s assets as not investing in a fund that yields a 10% return.

The oceans’ value is deteriorating due to over-exploitation, pollution and climate change, which is rapidly eroding its resources. The ocean is highly likely to already be producing less than it is capable of. The worst thing is more than two thirds of the oceans’ annual value relies on healthy ocean conditions, which today we are rearing away from.

90 percent of global fish stocks are either over-exploited or fully exploited as we have fished our way down the food web and climate change is warming waters and raising ocean acidity that will take the oceans at least 10,000 years to recover from. Already, half of all corals worldwide have been wiped out due to climate change. If temperatures and ocean acidity continue to rise, it could be the final push towards extinction for delicate coral reef ecosystems and this is currently expected in the year 2050. In fact marine species as a whole declined by 39 percent between 1970 and 2010. These effects are all threatening the livelihoods and even lives of millions of people that depend on the oceans and in the case of extinction, the impacts will be permanent with no chance of recovery.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. The report also contains a recovery plan and has identified eight actions to restore our oceans’ assets. The three key global priorities that need addressing in 2015 are:

  • A stronger focus in UN agreements on oceans, including the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Taking global action on climate change
  • All countries to engage in more effective conservation, with at least 10 percent of all coastal and marine areas to be protected and effectively managed by 2020, and 30 percent by 2030.

For the UK, this would mean the government stepping up and designating the next tranche of Marine Conservation Zones, hopefully all 23.

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Lucy Grable

Lucy Grable

MSc Species Identification and Survey Skills student at Reading Uni | BSc Marine Zoology | Website Editor MARINElife | Zanzibar humpback whale researcher|Marine wildlife enthusiast

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