Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Only 13% of World's Oceans Remain Wild

Oceans
Only 13% of World's Oceans Remain Wild
Bora Bora, French Polynesia. myatt.william / Flickr

A new study has unveiled humanity's sweeping impact on the world's oceans. Commercial fishing, climate change, agricultural runoff and other human-caused stressors have wiped out nearly 90 percent of Earth's marine wilderness, researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Queensland, Australia revealed.

Just 13 percent of the world's seas can be classified as truly wild, with most being located in the high seas, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.


"Those marine areas that can be considered 'pristine' are becoming increasingly rare, as fishing and shipping fleets expand their reach across almost all of the world's oceans, and sediment runoff smothers many coastal areas," said Kendall Jones, researcher at the University of Queensland and lead author of the paper, in a press release.

What's more, less than 5 percent of the world's remaining marine wildness is protected.

"Improvements in shipping technology mean that even the most remote wilderness areas may come under threat in the future, including once ice-covered places that are now accessible because of climate change," Jones said.

To map out these areas, the research team used fine scale global data to analyze 19 human stressors on the seas, including industrial shipping, sediment runoff and several types of fishing.

The areas that were least affected by these stressors were classified as wilderness, amounting to 21 million square miles or 13.2 percent of the marine environment.

The study shows that most marine wilderness is located in the Arctic, Antarctic and in remote Pacific island nations with low human populations. Conversely, in coastal regions with intense human activities, very little marine wilderness remains. These coastal habitats are home to coral reefs, salt marshes and kelp forests.

The researchers said that preserving the ocean's remaining wilderness is more urgent than ever.

"We know these marine wilderness areas are declining catastrophically, and protecting them must become a focus of multilateral environmental agreements," James Watson, professor at the University of Queensland, director of science at the Wildlife Conservation Society and senior author of the paper, said in the press release. "If not, they will likely disappear within 50 years."

U.S. returns create about 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. manonallard / Getty Images

Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Climate Envoy John Kerry (L) and President-elect Joseph (R) are seen during Kerry's ceremonial swearing in as Secretary of State on February 6, 2013 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong / Getty Images

By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian

John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Scientific integrity is key for protecting the field against attacks. sanjeri / Getty Images

By Maria Caffrey

As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.

Read More Show Less
A pair of bears perch atop Brooks Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park, about 100 miles from the proposed Pebble Mine site. Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.

Read More Show Less

OlgaMiltsova / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Gwen Ranniger

In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.

Read More Show Less