“Half the world’s marine species wiped out in one generation! Marine life slashed by half since the 1970s. Ocean fish numbers on brink of collapse”
The headlines are screaming. Sure enough, WWF’s latest report, Living Blue Planet Report: Species, habitats and human well-being, tells a terrifying tale. The introduction, by Director General of WWF International, Marco Lambertini, is bewitching and uncompromising: “Our ocean – that seemingly infinitely bountiful, ever awe-inspiring blue that defines our planet from space – is in crisis.”
There has been a 52% decline in vertebrate populations since 1970. Combine that horrifying statistic with the fact that human well-being is inextricably connected with the nose-diving populations of certain fish species (those fish that make up 60% of the protein intake of millions of people) and we can only conclude that there is an “impending social and economic crisis” on our hands: “humanity is collectively mismanaging the ocean to the brink of collapse.”
Local marine ecologist and marine reserve campaigner Vince Kerr says, “Tragically, our oceans remain in trouble and at risk of the global politics of over-exploitation. Many, many wonderful marine resources and ecosystems are at the tipping point. Especially at the top of the food chains; the predators are being wiped from the entire planet and we are only just starting to understand how this tragedy spirals down through the ecosystem.”
The picture painted by this report is certainly bleak. But solutions are on the table. Preserving natural capital is foremost on the list, with more marine protected areas a goal – as nurseries of the sea and for coastal resilience. Currently just 3.4% of the ocean (that’s the entire planet’s ocean, by the way) is protected. Only part of that 3.4% is effectively managed. Projections show that increasing marine protected area coverage to 30% could generate up to US $90 billion between 2015 and 2050. Not only a win for the environment, but a win for the global economy.
And how does this Living Blue Planet report relate to New Zealand? Vince argues that this global story is totally relevant to us and should set off a “revolution of concern”:
“We need to change the way we view and manage the sea and we need to do it fast. The WWF report has some outstanding examples of the 'solutions'. We must focus on our eco -region and local ecosystem level. The report (p.32) tells the dramatic story of transformation for the Galapagos Islands as they changed their view from one of exploitation to one of care, protection and celebration of nature’s riches. The world now flocks to their doorstep to experience this. This is our path to the future; we can make Bay of Islands and the Northland coast the Galapagos of this part of the world. Income will rival agriculture and it will support livelihoods and a future that grow every year forever, a partnership with the Ocean. Let's do it.”