The world’s oceans have been misused by humans for decades, but scientists believe rebuilding them is a very achievable goal.
The Negative impact humans have had on the world’s oceans have only come to light recently. Marine species, including fin whales, Byrde’s whales and humpback whales, along with fish have been hunted to near extinction, whilst oil, plastic and other forms of pollution including noise are worse now than they have ever been. The growing effects of climate change have bleached corals and seen acidity in the world’s oceans increase. This was all recognised in a report from the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2019.
However, a new scientific review has reported that despite humans misusing the oceans for centuries, they are proving extraordinarily resilient, which could lead to full recovery within three decades.
Although the new review does recognise the growing number of threats in the ocean it also points to remarkable recoveries. For example, the increase in humpback whale numbers since the ban on commercial whaling in 1986. The number of marine species recognised as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has also dropped from 18% in 2000 to 11.4% in 2019.
Lead author of the review, Carlos Duarate (professor of marine science at the King Abdulla University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia) said; "Our study documents the recovery of marine populations, habitats and ecosystems following past conservation interventions. It provides specific, evidence-based recommendations to scale proven solutions globally. We know what we ought to do to rebuild marine life, and we have evidence that this goal can be achieved within three decades. Indeed, this requires that we accelerate our efforts, and spread them to areas where efforts are currently modest."
Nine components which are key to rebuilding the oceans were recognised in the study, including mangroves, sea grasses, oyster reefs and the deep ocean and scientists have recommended a range of steps which need to be taken including harvesting wisely, restoring habitats and protecting species. Co-author Prof Callum Roberts from the University of York, UK said "We now have the skills and expertise to be able to restore vital marine habitats such as oyster reefs, mangrove swamps and salt marshes - which keep our seas clean, our coasts protected and provide food to support entire ecosystems.”
One of the biggest challenges to tackle will be climate change which is seeing the sea level rise and the waters becoming more acidic. And the amount of warming that has already taken place is likely to make the rebuilding of tropical reefs quite difficult.
Although governments across the world have many other matters on their minds, the scientists taking part in the review believe that the rebuilding our oceans is a very achievable goal.
The full report can be read here.