In the recent Living Blue Planet Report on the state of the world’s oceans, the World Wide Fund (WWF) has reached the alarming conclusion that over half of all marine life is gone. As much as 52 percent of all marine animal life has been lost in the past 40 years. And many species, primarily those most popular for human consumption, are even worse off. Shark and ray fishing has increased threefold since the 1950s. We have lost more than half of all of reef corals in the past 30 years. Losing corals and reefs will further push these already diminished marine life populations beyond the brink of extinction, as many of these animals depend on the reefs for habitat and food.
The WWF publishes a “state of the oceans” report every two years. Although they published the current report in 2015, the organization felt that it “needed to amplify the warning siren for the ocean this year, because the situation is urgent and the moment to act is at hand.”
In the introduction to the report, Marco Lambertini, the director general for WWF International, urges the worldwide community to heed the warning that action is needed, and needed now.
“The picture is now clearer than ever: humanity is collectively mismanaging the ocean to the brink of collapse,” he said.
“Considering the ocean’s vital role in our economies and its essential contribution to food security — particularly for poor, coastal communities — that’s simply unacceptable.
The fish species most directly tied to human well-being — the fish that constitute up to 60 percent of protein intake in coastal countries, supporting millions of small-scale fishers as well as a global multibillion-dollar industry — we see populations in a nosedive. The habitats they depend on, such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses, are equally threatened.”
The main culprits behind this dismal situation are entirely our fault: overfishing, loss of habitats due to human construction, mining, pollution and global warming.
What can we do?
However, the report isn’t all doom and gloom. There are choices to made, and solutions at hand. They fall into five categories:
- Preserve natural capital by creating protected marine areas and restoring damaged eco-systems.
- Produce better by ensuring sustainable fishing practices and sustainable ocean-based tourism.
- Consume more wisely by selecting sustainable seafood sources and traveling in a sustainable manner when near or on oceans.
- Redirect financial flows to support the actions above.
- Equitable resource governance by ensuring good ocean governance and empowerment of local communities that depend on oceans for food.
The report is, as the WWF calls it, an urgent call to action. Governments, local communities, and individual citizens can follow many of these proposals immediately. As scuba divers and ocean advocates, it’s up to us to lead the charge before it’s too late.