Seventy percent of the planet is ocean. It is home to 80 percent of all life on Earth and holds 97 percent of Earth’s water, providing jobs, livelihoods, food, and inspiration to billions of people. The ocean is the largest carbon and heat sink, serving as a massive buffer against the causes and effects of climate change. Ocean health is fundamental for life on Earth. Regrettably, the ocean is reaching perilous tipping points. Overfishing and habitat loss are among the most important ecological threats to the world’s oceans. Marine protected areas (MPAs) and fisheries management can help solve these problems.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
The ocean includes highly diverse ecosystems that sustain a healthy planet and provide a wide range of services to human societies. However, stressors like overfishing and illegal fishing, climate change, and pollution threaten the health of the oceans and the people who depend on them. As one of a suite of measures to protect and sustainably manage ocean resources, evidence shows that MPAs can improve ocean health. MPAs help preserve biodiversity, boost fisheries productivity, support nature-based tourism and recreation, sequester carbon, protect coasts from storms, and mitigate some of the other negative impacts of climate change.
Global momentum for establishing MPAs is increasing. The effectiveness of these MPAs is highly dependent on their design and management. The best available science concludes that conservation benefits are maximized by establishing strongly protected areas in a range of representative ecosystems. For an MPA to be considered “strongly protected,” it must restrict harmful activities and have effective management.
Effective MPA management includes a legal framework and strong management plan, combined with long-term financial sustainability. Through its MPA granting portfolio, Oceans 5 will contribute to the groundswell of action to increase the amount of strongly protected MPAs that are effectively managed.
Effective fisheries management regimes protect the health and wellbeing of ocean ecosystems and coastal communities, providing food security and economic benefits to billions of people throughout the world. Eighty-five percent of the world’s fisheries are either fully or over-exploited. Moreover, widespread illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing undermines effective fisheries management in profound ways.
Fisheries management, which includes the elimination of IUU fishing, could increase the number of fish in the ocean by 50 percent, while increasing fishing income by up to 40 percent. Worldwide momentum to eliminate IUU fishing continues to grow. The European Union and United States–the two largest seafood markets–have adopted and are implementing new policies to restrict IUU seafood imports. Exporting nations like Indonesia, Taiwan, Ghana, Thailand, and Korea are implementing new policies and programs to combat IUU fishing. These policies seek to strengthen controls on fishing activities, increasing the traceability and transparency of the seafood supply chain.
Technological improvements are advancing seafood traceability through industrial and small-scale supply chains. Electronic monitoring programs, for example, can supplement human observers and provide accurate high-quality data to fishery managers. Advances in remote sensing are helping to identify fishing vessels and activities in ways that were not possible only five years ago.