To save the world's oceans from rampant over-fishing, pollution and degradation, countries should hammer out a deal like the Paris Agreement on climate change that sets stringent targets for protection, said WWF International President Pavan Sukhdev. Such an accord would help the world's poorest who depend on the seas for jobs and food, he said.
Alongside dwindling fish numbers, oceans are also beset by rising temperatures, acidification and pollution, particularly from the trillions of pieces of plastic in the sea, which are starting to make their way into the food chain. Some of the world's poorest people who rely on the oceans for their livelihood are suffering worst from the over-fishing and contamination that is slashing the amount of fish available for them to catch, said Sukhdev. Uncontrolled plastic pollution now risks developing into a "very severe" health issue with tiny particles turning up in the fish that ends up on people's plates, he warned. An estimated 8 billion tonnes of plastic washes into the ocean each year to join the 5 trillion pieces of plastic thought to be already floating around the world.
"It's not just an environmental problem - it's actually a social problem of enormous dimensions," he said.
Billions of people depend on oceans for their food and livelihoods, but the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says nearly 90 percent of fish stocks are over-fished or fully exploited as global demand rises.
"Ocean change, like climate change, is underway... The good news is we're now taking action," said U.N. Special Envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson. "At the moment, we're not winning, but the battle's on," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the conference.
Sadly even as they grow aware of the seriousness of the situation, capitalist experts can only offer capitalist solutions.
Developing the so-called "blue economy" could lure capital into bonds and other financial instruments designed to help protect the oceans, said Thomson.