Skip to main content

Protecting the oceans, saving the planet

One of the consequences of the pandemic has been the postponement of crucial talks at the United Nations aimed at an agreement on a global ocean treaty. Our oceans are under immense pressure through pollution, global warming and over-fishing.  In the longer term, this is a more significant threat to life on earth.  We need to protect our oceans. 

Little noticed amidst the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.  The progress report is grim reading. It finds that "action to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required." 

As the demand for food increases with a growing population, it presents a significant challenge to the conservation of fish stock and the ecological balance of our oceans. The fraction of fish stocks that are within biologically sustainable levels had decreased from 90% in 1974 to just 65.8% in 2017. 

From 1976 to 2018, the value of global exports of fish and fish products increased at an annual rate of 4 per cent in real terms.  Total fish production is expected to expand from its current level of 179 million tonnes to 204 million tonnes by the end of the decade (2030).   The greater part of this (53%) will be from aquaculture

Oceans are essential to life on earth. They act as the planet's lungs, absorbing carbon dioxide, providing the oxygen life needs on Earth.  Most of this oxygen comes from tiny ocean plants called phytoplankton that float near the water's surface and drift with the currents. Like all plants,  they use sunlight and carbon dioxide to make food.  Most of the heat from global warming is absorbed by oceans, and it is estimated that warming ocean waters has killed off phytoplankton globally by 40 per cent since 1950.

Global warming increases carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans.  Carbon dioxide reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid, causing the acidity of seawater to rise.  Ocean acidity has increased about 25% from preindustrial times to the early 21st century.  The acidity of oceans is higher now than at any point in the past two million years.  

As a report from Greenpeace says: 

"We need an International Ocean Treaty that set out obligations of nation-states to protect ocean life. As a report by Greenpeace says: A healthy ocean is critical to global food security, the livelihoods of billions of people, and a stable climate that can support human life. Our fate and the fate of our oceans are intimately connected. If ocean ecosystems continue to take this kind of damage year after year, the consequences will be profound and disastrous."

The UN has been edging towards just such a treaty.  If adopted, this could be a significant game-changer in protecting our planet.   We need governments to find a way to move the talks forward.  The clock is ticking.  


Ray Noble is a Chartered Biologist and Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology. You can follow The Thin End on Facebook and/or subscribe for regular updates by email on the subscribe button. 




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services.

It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared.

Utilitarian ethics considers the balan…

Keir Starmer has a lot to offer

The Labour Party is in the process of making a decision that will decide whether it can recover from the defeat in 2019 General Election.  All the candidates have much to offer and are making their case well.

No doubt for some the decision will be difficult.  Others may well have made up their minds on the simple binary of Left-wing-Right-wing.

The choice should be whoever is best placed to pull the party together.  Someone who can form a front bench of all talents and across the spectrum in the party.

That is what Harold Wilson did in the 1960s.  His government included Roy Jenkins on the right and Barbar Castle on the left; it included Crossman and Crossland, and Tony Benn with Jim Callaghan.  It presented a formidable team.

Keir Starmer brings to the top table a formidable career outside politics, having been a human rights lawyer and then Director of Public Prosecutions.   He is a man of integrity and commitment who believes in a fairer society where opportunities are more widel…

No evidence for vaccine link with autism

Public health bodies are worried that an alarming drop in childhood vaccinations is leading to a resurgence of diseases in childhood that we had all but eradicated.  Misinformation and scare stories about the harmful effects of vaccines abound on the internet and in social media.  Where they are based on 'science', it is highly selective, and often reliance is placed on falsehoods. 
Conspiracy theories also abound - cover-ups, deception, lies. As a result, too many parents are shunning vaccinations for their children.  So, what does the published, peer-reviewed literature tell us about vaccincations? Are they safe and effective, or are there long term harmful effects? 
A new report now provides some of the answers.

New evidence published in the Cochrane Library today finds MMR, MMRV, and MMR+V vaccines are effective and that they are not associated with increased risk of autism.

Measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (also known as chickenpox) are infectious diseases caused by …