Ocean Benefits Increasingly Undermined by Human Activity, UN Assessment Finds
New York (United Nations) – Greater understanding of the ocean is essential if the world is to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve agreed targets on sustainable development and climate action, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said Wednesday on the occasion of the launch of The second World Ocean Assessment (WOA II).
“Pressures from many human activities continue to degrade the ocean and destroy essential habitats – such as mangrove forests and coral reefs – hindering their capacity to help address climate change impacts,” Mr. Guterres said in a video message.
“These pressures also come from human activities on land and coastal areas, which bring dangerous pollutants into the ocean, including plastic waste. Meanwhile, overfishing is estimated to have led to an annual loss of $88.9 billion in net benefits.”
The Secretary-General added that carbon released into the atmosphere is driving ocean warming and acidification, which have destroyed biodiversity. At the same time, sea level rise is threatening the world’s coastlines.
The UN Secretary-General reported that the number of ‘dead zones’ in the ocean has nearly doubled, increasing from more than 400 globally in 2008 to about 700 in 2019. Around 90% of mangrove, sea-grass and marsh plant species, as well as more than 30 per cent of seabird species, are also facing the threat of extinction.
“As the Assessment makes clear, ocean sustainability depends on us all working together – including through joint research, capacity development and the sharing of data, information and technology. We also need to better integrate scientific knowledge and policy-making,” he said.
This year marked the start of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which the Secretary-General said provides a framework for collective action to achieve this goal.
“The findings of this Assessment underscore the urgency of ambitious outcomes in this year’s UN biodiversity, climate and other high-level summits and events,” he added.
“Together, we can foster not only a green – but also a blue – recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and help ensure a long term resilient and sustainable relationship with the ocean.”
The second World Ocean Assessment follows an initial report published in 2015. It warns that many benefits the ocean provides are increasingly being undermined by human actions, the UN chief said, describing the findings as alarming.