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Visionary Study Shows How 30% of World's Oceans Could Be Made Sanctuaries by 2030
By Julia Conley
The climate action group Greenpeace released a report Thursday which lays out a plan for how world leaders can protect more than 30 percent of the world's oceans in the next decade — as world governments meet at United Nations to create a historic Global Oceans Treaty aimed at strictly regulating activities which have damaged marine life.
In the report — 30x30: A Blueprint for Ocean Protection — researchers from the Universities of York and Oxford divided the world's oceans into 25,000 62-square mile sections, mapping out a network of "ocean sanctuaries" which could be created to help recover lost biodiversity.
"The findings in this report show that it is entirely feasible to design an ecologically representative, planet-wide network of high seas protected areas to address the crisis facing our oceans and enable their recovery," reads the report. "The need is immediate and the means readily available. All that is required is the political will."
The sanctuaries, which Greenpeace says could be established by 2030, would protect species from the damages of overfishing, fossil fuel drilling projects and pollution.
"The '30x30' report puts forward a credible design for a global network of marine protected areas in the high seas based on knowledge accumulated over years by marine ecologists on the distribution of species, including those threatened with extinction, habitats known to be hotspots of biodiversity and unique ecosystems," said Alex Rogers, a professor at Oxford who co-authored the report.
Greenpeace published an interactive map as a companion to the study, showing how little ocean life is currently protected compared with the wide swaths of ocean that could be protected with its proposed network of protected areas.
Current protected area of world's oceans.
Projected protection zones in world's oceans by 2030.
Oceans cover 70 percent of the planet's living space and include 89 million square miles which are completely unprotected because they lie outside of national borders — currently, just two percent of the world's oceans are protected. Greenpeace's plan to establish conservation zones in 30 to 50 percent of the oceans would help ocean ecosystems recover from decades of worsening plastic pollution, overfishing, fossil fuel drilling and acidification brought on by increased carbon in the world's atmosphere.
"The speed at which the high seas have been depleted of some of their most spectacular and iconic wildlife has taken the world by surprise," said Callum Roberts, a marine conservation biologist at the University of York. "Extraordinary losses of seabirds, turtles, sharks, and marine mammals reveal a broken governance system that governments at the United Nations must urgently fix."
The study took into account the socio-economic impact the sanctuaries would have on global fishing industries, showing that "networks representative of biodiversity can be built with limited economic impact."
As delegations gathered in New York to discuss a treaty aimed at protecting oceans, Greenpeace urged world leaders to consider the groundbreaking 30x30 study as a guide for how to ensure a healthy future for marine life as well as the entire planet.
"The negotiations taking place here at the UN are crucial because, if they get it right, governments around the world could secure a Global Ocean Treaty by 2020 which has the teeth to realize a network of ocean sanctuaries, off-limits from harmful human activities," said Dr. Sandra Schoettner of Greenpeace. "This would give wildlife and habitats space not only to recover, but to flourish. Our oceans are in crisis, but all we need is the political will to protect them before it's too late."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.
It's become a familiar story with the Trump administration: Scientists write a report that shows the administration's policies will cause environmental damage, then the administration buries the report and fires the scientists.