Waste Not
Report:
Oceans Valued at $24 Trillion, Rank as World's Seventh-Largest Economy

A recent report commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates the ocean’s value at $24 trillion, making it the world’s seventh-largest economy. The annual “goods and services” it provides, such as food, rounds out to about $2.5 trillion, a value that the report warns is at risk due to overfishing, pollution and climate change.

Reviving the Ocean Economy: The Case for Action, whose authors include The Boston Consulting Group and the Global Change Institute, believes this value may be underestimated, as it doesn’t account for factors such as oil, wind power, and intangibles such as the ocean’s role in climate regulation. The value is largely derived from fisheries, tourism, shipping lanes and the coastal protection provided by corals and mangroves.

Global ocean asset value

As we know, the world’s oceans are quickly being degraded. Oceans soak up half of the atmospheric carbon dioxide, most of which is generated by humans, resulting in warmer and more acidic waters. Increased acidity hampers the ability of creatures such as corals and mollusks to form their shells and skeletons and many marine species can’t withstand the climbing temps.

Additionally, the report warns that nearly two-thirds of the world’s fisheries are “fully exploited” with most of the rest overexploited. Between 1970 and 2010, marine biodiversity decreased by 39%, while half of the world’s corals and nearly a third of its seagrasses disappeared in the same 30-year period.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, lead author of the report and director of the Australia-based Global Change Institute, emphasized the importance of the business community understanding the value of the oceans so that a strategy could be devised to reverse their decline.

“If you don’t look after an asset like the ocean it starts to degrade, so it’s important we start to solve these problems now on an international basis,” Hoegh-Guldberg said. “The oceans are in a bad state that is rapidly getting worse. Fisheries are starting to collapse, there are record levels of pollution, such as plastic pollution, and there is climate change.”

The latest report by the UN’s climate science panel reinforced Hoegh-Guldberg’s point. It stated that changes in the ocean’s chemistry due to an increase in CO2 emissions were faster than at any point in the past 65 million years.

“The changes we are making will take 10,000 years at least to turn around, so we don’t want to go down this pathway,” Hoegh-Guldberg said. “This generation of humans is defining the future of 300 generations of humans. We are conducting these experiments with our world despite the consequences for people.”

The report outlines eight key steps to revive the health of the oceans: a stronger focus on UN ocean agreements, deep cuts to emissions, protection of at least 30 percent of marine areas by 2030 and a larger effort to combat illegal fishing.

Efforts to keep the ocean clean spread across all sectors. Just last month UCSD unveiled the first algae-based surfboard, and adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans to raise awareness and collaborating on projects that can end their destruction.

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