What Would Earth Day ( 2020 ) Return To Ocean

Earth Day 2020: What Would It Take For The Oceans To Be Recovered Within The Next 30 Years?





dolphin underwater on reef background looking at you
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Scientists believe that the world’s oceans could be recovered to healthy levels by 2050, but it would require a substantial shift in the way that we approach business and conservation associated with the oceans.

There are several historical examples of recovery that we can draw upon. For example, fish stocks increased during both World Wars due to decreased fishing pressure. Additionally, the Marshall Islands coral reefs were used for nuclear testing up until 1958. Since then, approximately 70 percent of the species found in the Bikini Atoll have been spotted. However, this exceptionally high and rapid resettlement is likely because the radiation left behind by the 76 megatons of nuclear weapons kept humans at bay.

Despite these optimistic examples, many may be skeptical about the short-term goal that this study proposes. Already in 2020, the Great Barrier Reef has experienced record-breaking levels of coral bleaching, microplastics were discovered in Antarctic sea ice and deep sea sediment, and there is new evidence that warming seawater is causing marine species to migrate poleward in search of cooler waters. And, the oceans have been facing numerous pressures from humans over the past 150 years including whaling / overfishing, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Nevertheless, this study suggests that there is a path to restoration for our oceans.

Fishing boat catching fish near the coastline of Island of Brac,Croatia
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To realize the future that the researchers put forth, they propose a series of interventions that would dramatically alter our relationship with the oceans:




  • Reducing hunting pressure on threatened species
  • Fastidiously managing fisheries and tackling challenges such as illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing
  • Enforcing rigorous policies that drastically reduce chemical, nutrient, and plastic pollution
  • Bolstering practices, such as marine protected areas (MPAs), that protect and restore ocean life

  • There are signs that we are beginning to clamber onto this path. The number of species that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has considered at risk for global extinction has decreased since 2000 and several fished species are increasingly being managed so that their populations can be harvested more sustainably. Additionally, coastal water quality has been increasing such that coastal seagrass systems have reappeared and more active habitat restoration has brought increased the spread mangrove forests and oyster reefs.
    Continuing along this trajectory, however, will require understanding how climate change may impact these systems and what mitigation options exist. Ultimately, there must be a global reduction in emissions to avoid further oxygen loss, temperature increases, and changing ocean chemistry. Otherwise, we could also see changes in habitat: coral reefs turned into seaweed gardens or kelp forests replaced by mobs of sea urchins. This effort could cost upwards of $10 billion, but would likely offer 10 times that in returns, if successful.
    According to lead author, Dr. Carlos Duarte, Professor at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), "Failure to embrace this challenge, and in doing so condemning our grandchildren to a broken ocean unable to support high quality livelihoods, is not an option."

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