Scientists believe that the world’s oceans can recover to a healthy level by 2050, but will require major changes in the way we approach business and conservation related to the oceans.
There are several historical examples of recovery that we can use. For example, fish stocks increased during the second World War due to decreased fishing pressure. In addition, the Marshall Islands coral reef was used for nuclear testing until 1958. Since then, approximately 70 percent from species found on Bikini Atoll have been seen. However, this very high and rapid resettlement is likely because the radiation left behind by the 76 megatons of nuclear weapons keeps humans in place.
Despite these optimistic examples, many may be skeptical of the short-term goal this lesson propose. Already in 2020, the Great Barrier Reef has experienced record-breaking the level of coral bleaching, microplastic is found in Indonesia Antarctic sea ice and deep sea sediments, and there is new evidence that warming of seawater causes marine species migrate poleward looking for cooler waters. And, the oceans have faced a lot of pressure from humans over the past 150 years including whaling / overfishing, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. However, this research shows that there is a path to recovery for our oceans.
To realize the future put forward by the researchers, they propose a series of interventions that will change dramatically our relationship with the ocean:
- Reducing hunting pressure on threatened species
- Manage fisheries carefully and overcome challenges like illegal, unregulated and not reported (IUU) fishing
- Enforce stringent policies that drastically reduce chemical, nutritional and plastic pollution
- Support practices, such as marine protected areas (KKL), which protects and restores marine life
There are signs that we have begun to climb this road. Number of species that are International Unity for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been considered at risk for global extinction has declined since 2000 and more and more fishing species are managed so that their populations can be harvested more sustainably. In addition, coastal water quality has improved so that the coastal seagrass system has resurfaced and more active habitat restoration has increased the spread of mangrove forests and oyster reefs.
Continuing along this trajectory, however, will require understanding how climate change can impact this system and what mitigation options exist. In the end, there must be a reduction in global emissions to avoid further loss of oxygen, the temperature rises, and chemical changes in the ocean. Otherwise, we can also see habitat changes: coral reefs turn into seaweed garden or seaweed forest replaced by hog feathers. This effort could cost up to $ 10 billion, but is likely to offer 10 times that in return, if successful.
Based on lead writer, Carlos Duarte, Professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), “Failure to accept this challenge, and in doing so condemn our grandchildren to a damaged ocean that cannot support high-quality livelihoods, is not an option.”