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By Thalif Deen
The study, which describes the oceans as economic powerhouses, warns that overexploitation, misuse and climate change are rapidly undermining high seas resources.
"The ocean rivals the wealth of the richest countries in the world, but we are allowing it to sink to the depths of a failed economy," warned Marco Lambertini, CEO of WWF International.
"As responsible shareholders, we cannot seriously expect to continue recklessly extracting the ocean's valuable assets without investing in its future," he added.
If compared to the 10 largest economies on the planet, the oceans would rank seventh, with an annual value of goods and services of 2.5 trillion (trillion) dollars, according to the report Reactivate the ocean economy, prepared by WWF in association with the Institute of World Change at the Australian University of Queensland and the consulting firm The Boston Consulting Group.
The current economic value of the oceans as a whole would be $ 24 trillion, the study estimates.
After nine years of intense negotiations, a United Nations (UN) Working Group, made up of 193 member states, agreed in January to convene an intergovernmental conference that will draft a legally binding treaty in order to preserve life. marine and ocean genetic resources, which are now largely outside the reach of the law.
Palitha Kohona, one of the chairs of the Working Group, who was Sri Lanka's ambassador to the UN, told IPS that the oceans are the next frontier for the commercial exploitation of large companies, especially those seeking to develop pharmaceutical products. lucrative from living and non-living organisms that exist in large numbers in the high seas.
“Technically advanced countries, which are already deploying their research vessels in the oceans, and some of which are developing products, including valuable… pharmaceuticals, based on biological material extracted from the high seas, are resisting the idea of regulating the exploitation of this type of material and share its benefits ”, he pointed out.
According to the UN, the high seas are those that are outside the national economic exclusion zones, which constitute 64 percent of the oceans, and the seabed that is beyond the continental shelves of each country.
These areas represent almost 50 percent of the Earth's surface, and include some of the most environmentally important, critically threatened and least protected ecosystems on the planet.
The proposed international treaty, the Agreement on Biodiversity on the High Seas, would address the insufficient, fragmented, and poorly implemented legal and institutional framework that currently fails to protect international seas from the many threats they face in the 21st century.
According to the WWF report, more than two-thirds of the annual value of the oceans depends on the healthy state of the waters to maintain their economic production.
Dwindling fishing, deforestation of mangroves, as well as the disappearance of corals and marine vegetation threaten the economic potential of the oceans that sustain the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.
The report also warns that the ocean is changing faster than at any other time in history.
At the same time, population growth and human dependence on the sea make restoring the ocean economy and its major resources a matter of international urgency.
The WWF study specifically points to climate change as the main cause of the declining health of the oceans.
At the current rate of global warming, coral reefs, which provide food, employment and protection from storms to hundreds of millions of people, will disappear completely by 2050.
More than warming the waters, climate change causes the increase in the acidity of the oceans, something that will take the environment hundreds of human generations to remedy.
Overexploitation is another major cause of ocean decline, as 90 percent of the world's fish population has been overexploited or 100 percent exploited, according to the study.
The Pacific bluefin tuna population fell 96 percent, according to WWF.
"It is not too late to reverse these worrying trends and ensure a healthy ocean that benefits people, businesses and nature," the report said, while proposing an eight-point action plan that would restore ocean resources in its full potential.
Among the most urgent solutions proposed is the incorporation of the recovery of the oceans into the Sustainable Development Goals that the UN will propose this year, the adoption of international measures against climate change and the fulfillment of the commitments assumed to protect coastal areas and marine.
“The ocean feeds us, employs us and sustains our health and well-being. Yet we are allowing it to crumble before our eyes. If the daily stories about the poor health of the oceans do not inspire our leaders, perhaps harsh economic analysis will, ”said Lambertini.
"We have to work seriously to protect the oceans, starting with real global commitments on climate and sustainable development," he urged.
Inter Press Service - IPS Venezuela