“In Dead Water,” a United Nations Environment Programme report on the threats facing our oceans.

The recently released UNEP rapid response report entitled “In Dead Water” which has for the first time mapped the multiple impacts of pollution; alien infestations; over-exploitation and climate change on the seas and oceans, is a thought provoking exploration of the threats facing our oceans and the ecosystems they support. This interesting report can be viewed at the following link.


It identifies five main factors that are impacting oceans and their viability. “The worst concentration of cumulative impacts of climate change with existing pressures of over-harvest, bottom trawling, invasive species infestations, coastal development and pollution appear to be concentrated in 10-15 per cent of the oceans,” says the report.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director,said:

“Climate change threatens coastal infrastructure, food and water supplies and the health of people across the world. It is clear from this report and others that it will add significantly to pressures on fish stocks. This is as much a development and economic issue as it is an environmental one. Millions of people including many in developing countries derive their livelihoods from fishing while around 2.6 billion people get their protein from seafood,” he said.

Just some of the findings from the report are:

Increasing concentrations of C02 in the atmosphere are likely to be mirrored by increasing acidification of the marine environment.

Increasing acidification may reduce the availability of calcium carbonates in sea water, including a key one known as aragonite which is used by a variety of organisms for shell-building.

Cold-water and deep water corals could be affected by acidification by 2050 and shell-building organisms throughout the Southern Ocean and into the sub-Arctic Pacific Ocean by 2100.

Climate change may slow down the ocean thermohaline circulation and thus the continental shelf “flushing and cleaning” mechanisms, known as dense shelf water cascading,over the next 100 years. These processes are crucial to water quality and nutrient cycling and deep water production in at least 75 per cent of the world’s major fishing grounds.

Further evidence of a warming signal is seen in the appearance of a Pacific planktonic plant in the Northwest Atlantic for this first time in 800,000 years by transfer across the top of Canada due to the rapid melting of the Arctic in 1998.

The report covers many areas of concern with detailed graphics and supporting material and puts forward a picture of the challenges facing policy makers if the ongoing viability of oceans is to be achieved. The impact that global warming is having is examined and projections made to highlight the outcomes if no action is taken to remedy the ongoing degradation of these precious resources. Changes to ocean movements, displacement of species and increasing ‘dead zone’ areas are predicted to affect fishing stocks.

“Oceans are crucial to life on earth, support livelihoods and are vital to the World Economy in numerous ways, including food as fish, income to coastal communities from tourism, shipping and trade, and through petroleum reserves to mention a few.” (FOA, 2006)

It is ironic that it is these very activities that are bring the world’s oceans to the crisis situations that the report examines. The challenge for governments and policymakers is to find ways to remedy the damage already done and find new ways to protect ocean life for future generations.

The urgency of the situation is highlighted throughout the report and in these two final quotes:

“The combined effects of the ‘big five” environmental threats provide a grim outlook to the sustainable future of the World’s oceans, and the billions of people who depend on marine resources.

There are currently no international or widespread implemented national policies in place to ensure that such disaster is prevented.”






~ by abstraktbiblos on Thursday, 20 March, 2008.

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