World, Environment

World’s relationship with ocean fundamentally unsustainable: Expert

'Without urgent action, future of our ocean … could be very grim indeed,' says World Wide Fund for Nature spokesman

Burak Bir   | 02.07.2022
World’s relationship with ocean fundamentally unsustainable: Expert File Photo - Somalian coastline to Indian Ocean


Staying silent, instead of taking concrete steps to keep the world's oceans healthy, would bring destruction and degrade the coastal environment and oceans, according to a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) official.

Pepe Clarke, a spokesman for WWF International and oceans practice lead, said a series of risks to the future of healthy oceans have continued.

"It is clear that humanity's relationship with the ocean has become fundamentally unsustainable and a business-as-usual scenario will see an ongoing depletion of wild fish populations in oceans, destruction and degradation of habitats both in the coastal environment and within the ocean itself," he said.

Touching on "a vital role" that oceans play in mitigating climate change, Clarke stressed that water bodies serve as a major heat and carbon sink.

"It has borne the brunt of the climate change impacts we are seeing today. These include the rise in sea level, the changes in temperature, and the acidification of the ocean," he said.

He said increasing pollution, not only plastic pollution but nutrient and pesticide pollution, as well as climate change, have profound effects on oceans and cause a collapse of marine ecosystems.

A warming ocean, caused by climate change, means more acid that affects marine life and ultimately human communities, said Clarke.

Mentioning the negative effects of unhealthy oceans on vulnerable communities, he said coral reefs, which protect coastal communities against storms, now are being pushed to extinction because of climate change, pollution, and overfishing.

"There is increasing evidence that we have now reached the tipping point, and it is crucial for us to act now," he said.

Worst-case scenario

Citing a WWF report that said 88% of marine species are affected by severe plastic contamination in oceans, he said approximately 100,000 marine animals die from plastic pollution every year as 8 million tons of plastic enter oceans annually.

"WWF predicts that plastic production will double in the next two decades. This will cause a four-fold increase in plastic waste in the ocean. That’s roughly two and half times the size of Greenland," said Clarke.

Citing a 2019 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that revealed 1 billion people could be negatively affected by 2050 because of climate change as oceans warm and ice sheets and glaciers melt, Clarke said there is a need for the implementation of needed practices.

"Without urgent action, the future of our ocean, in a business-as-usual scenario could be very grim indeed. ... It is likely most coral reefs will disappear in our lifetime as well as other ecosystems being degraded," he said.

To prevent that scenario, Clarke recommended supporting nature-based adaptation investment, strengthening resilience in the least developed countries and small island developing states, as well as facilitating the transition to low-carbon economies.

"The relationship between climate change and (the) ocean must be recognized, understood, and incorporated into government policies as concerns about climate change increase," he said. "It’s time to break the bottlenecks and strengthen and restore resolve to achieve what has been promised."

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