• Bruce Rich
  • Environmental Forum
  • September/October 2022

More than a third of all wild ocean fish stocks are overfished--a proportion that has increased over past decades--and much of the remainder is harvested close to the limits of biological sustainability. Perverse financial incentives and regulatory failures are depleting world fisheries further. Plastic pollution is a global crisis. The President of Palau, representing Pacific small island states, declared that by 2050 the weight of plastic in the seas will exceed the biomass of all the fish in the ocean.

Climate change is increasing acidification of the oceans, deoxygenation of marine waters, and the impoverishment of marine biodiversity. It is accelerating the world-wide death of coral reefs, as well as the disruption of other critical marine ecosystems such as the coastal spawning grounds of numerous species. The interrelated dynamics of these changes include the warming of ocean waters, the increased absorption of CO2 (forming carbonic acid when dissolved in water), and rising sea levels inundating mangroves and other biologically critical areas. Many nations have fallen short in implementing national commitments under the U.N. 2015 Paris climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions and to provide financial support for climate mitigation.

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