Magazine article USA TODAY

Turning the Tide to Save Oceans

Magazine article USA TODAY

Turning the Tide to Save Oceans

Article excerpt

From coastal zones to the high seas, a growing wave of citizen groups, businesses, and governments are mobilizing to save the oceans before human activities destroy them, reports Worldwatch Institute senior researcher Anne Platt McGinn. She cites a number of efforts already under way to protect the seas:

* Unilever, which controls 20% of the whitefish market in Europe and the U.S., has agreed to buy only fish caught and produced in an environmentally sustainable manner.

* Volunteers in the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Ecuador are replanting mangrove areas to repair earlier damage from shrimp farming.

* In northern Sulawesi, Indonesia, citizens have cleared coral reefs of harmful invasive species.

* The U.S. and Canada have banned oil drilling on large portions of their continental shelves.

"We need to devote far greater resources to protecting oceans," McGinn argues. A tax of just one-tenth of one percent on industrial and recreational ocean activities would generate $500,000,000 a year, more than five times the annual budgets of two important ocean agencies--the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Fisheries Department of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "Saving the oceans will take these efforts and more, because we've already pushed the world's oceans close to--and in some cases past--their natural limits."

Seven out of 10 commercial fish species are overexploited. Moreover, many of their spawning grounds have been cleared to make room for shrimp ponds, golf courses, and beach resorts. As a result of habitat degradation, insured coastal property damages in the U.S. soared to $50,000,000,000 in the 1990s. The number of poisonous algal species identified by scientists has nearly tripled since 1984, increasing fish kills, beach closures, and economic losses.

"Bad news for oceans is bad news for the economy and ultimately for humanity, too," warns McGinn. People obtain an average of 16% of their animal protein from fish, and about 2,000,000,000 people-one-third of the world's population--live within 60 miles of a coastline. Clean beaches and coastlines attract millions of visitors each year and provide billions of dollars in tourism revenue. Toothpaste, salad dressing, ice cream, and first aid products all depend on the gel-forming properties of brown algae.

Because the most productive areas of the ocean are under national jurisdiction and 80% of oceanic pollution originates on land, addressing global marine issues requires strong national and local policies. …

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