Problem

A turtle ensnared in a net, by 2050 the amount of plastic in the ocean will outnumber fish by weight (National Geographic photo)

A turtle ensnared in a net, by 2050 the amount of plastic in the ocean will outnumber fish by weight (National Geographic photo)

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The ocean is facing an accelerating crisis, which threatens the environment and human wellbeing.

For millennia humankind has relied on the ocean to provide the water, climate, and sustenance that allows us to live, and has thought of the ocean as a limitless resource, as well as a bottomless garbage bin.

In the latter years of the last century, however, humans have reached and even surpassed the ocean’s limits.

A combination of human population growth, material and technical progress, and lack of understanding has left the ocean under assault from many directions:  overfishing, acidification, temperature rise, chemical pollution, garbage, etc. The results are well known and well documented. Among them are collapsing fisheries, heat bleaching of the world’s coral reefs, toxic algae blooms, marine creatures choked with trash, and food shortages in many communities that rely on the ocean for food.

Destructive and wasteful fishing practices exacerbate the problems.  At least 10% of commercial fish are deliberately wasted as by-catch. Unprofitable high-seas fishing is subsidized by national governments; more than half of these fleets would operate at a loss without subsidies.

Fishing currently takes place beyond our ocean’s biological capacity. The very definition of unsustainability from both environmental and economic standpoints, requires action now.