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COLUMN DEDICATED TO INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL DAY CELEBRATED ON JUNE 5: ONE WORLD, ONE OCEAN. AND IT IS TIME TO SAVE IT

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WASHINGTON, Jun 1 2004 (IPS) - The rich and poor worlds are linked as never before – by economics, trade, migration, and by one body of water that covers 70% of the earth\’s surface, and on which our survival depends. As there is only one World, there is also one Ocean. But the world\’s Ocean is dying, writes Ian Johnson, Vice President of the World Bank. But there is reason to hope. The 2002 Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable, called for ambitious but achievable goals such as restoring degraded fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015. Now it is time to move forward and developed countries must lead the way. As with agriculture, rich countries must lead the way in eliminating the harmful subsidies and other protectionist policies that lead to over-fishing. These policies need to end to avoid continuing the depletion of the Ocean\’s living resources.

The rich and poor worlds are linked as never before – by economics, trade, migration, and by one body of water that covers 70% of the earth’s surface, and on which our survival depends. As there is only one World, there is also one Ocean. But the world’s Ocean is dying.

The warning signs are already there: –oil slicks off the coast of Spain and hospital waste washing up on beaches off Long Island Sound, in the United States. –stranded dolphins and whales dying along the California coast in the United States –1/3 of the world’s coral reefs degraded beyond recovery , and another third at risk –90% of the Ocean’s big predatory fish stockstuna, marlin, sharks, and cod–gone — alarm bells sound about the health risks of eating farmed salmon from cancer causing chemicals

Over-fishing is killing the global Ocean. A technological revolution that has made boats capable of catching more fish than ever before, a population explosion on the coasts, subsidies of fishing fleets in developed countries and a steadily rising demand for fish products, have combined to create a global threat with consequences for future generations that we can only begin to imagine.

An ever-expanding fishing fleet, supported by heavy rich country subsidies (around $15 billion per year worldwide), has devastated fishing grounds. Illegal fishing is on the rise, global governance is ineffective and poor fisherpersons are paying the price. These policies have promoted a kind of “fishing down the food chain” that is stripping the Ocean of its keystone species.

Demand is also rising, fueled by affluence in mainly developed but also in some developing countries. Consumption of fish has doubled in the past 30 years, from 45 million tons in 1973 to 100 million tons today, and is predicted to increase to 128 million tons by 2020.

Over exploitation has cast its destructive nets as far down as to the beautiful but fragile deepwater coral reefs in search of species such as orange roughya popular but endangered delicacy served in many upscale restaurants around the world. Almost half the world’s population, 3 billion people and growing rapidly, now lives within a narrow, 60 mile wide swath along the world’s coasts, destroying marine habitats with unchecked construction and still more pollution. The nutrient rich run-off from agriculture and untreated waste and chemicals from urban areas are devastating estuaries like The Chesapeake Bay in the United States and creating dead zones off the Gulf of Mexico.

And increasingly superimposed on these pressures is the impact of human induced climate change, which is already causing dangerous impacts on the marine ecosystems that are essential to coastal economies and to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of poor people. Climate change — causing outbreaks of disease and temperature induced coral bleaching — may be slowly applying the finishing touches to the world’s oceans.

But there is reason to hope. The 2002 Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable, called for ambitious but achievable goals such as restoring degraded fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015. Now it is time to move forward and developed countries must lead the way.

As with agriculture, rich countries must lead the way in eliminating the harmful subsidies and other protectionist policies that lead to over-fishing. These policies need to end to avoid continuing the depletion of the Ocean’s living resources.

Some countries are showing that progress is within reach. Reduction of overcapacity in Chile and reclaiming foreign licensing agreements in Namibia in exchange for better regulated, national fleets have helped restore ground fish stocks. Environmental certification schemes, such as for dolphin-free tuna and Alaskan wild salmon, are promoting greener markets by responding to consumer demand for more eco-friendly products. Well managed Marine Protected Areas are attracting tourists in Belize and Mexico and transforming local fishers into tour guide operators and supporters of marine conservation. . The World Bank together with partners such as the Global Environment Facility GEF) , the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) , and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) among others, is working based on a new perspective on Ocean Management -one that starts high up in the watersheds of major rivers and continues downstream to the coastal zone and to the sea beyond. Only by prioritizing the close interconnections between land and water, human and Ocean health, sustainable management and renewable benefits, will we become responsible stewards of the Blue Planet on which our life and our future depends .

 
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