The High Cost of Ocean Decline

Ocean degradation is not as visible as deforestation, but it is at least as dangerous. Addressing it requires not only quantifying the economic costs of allowing it to continue, but also devising new governance mechanisms to ensure that it does not.

SANTIAGO – The world’s oceans are in trouble. In late September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the oceans are warming, seawater is acidifying, and oxygen concentrations are dropping. Last week, another initiative, the International Program on the State of the Ocean, outlined the toll that these and other factors, such as destructive fishing and pollution, are having on marine life.

Ocean degradation is not as visible as deforestation, but it is at least as dangerous. The oceans provide at least half of the oxygen we breathe. They absorb more carbon dioxide than forests do. Harm to the oceans can have a tremendous global impact.

Degradation is particularly serious in the one substantial part of the world that is governed internationally – the high seas. These waters are outside maritime states’ exclusive economic zones; they comprise two-thirds of the oceans’ area, covering fully 45% of the earth’s surface.

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