Oceana calls for urgent protection of more marine areas to halt biodiversity loss and prevent the collapse of fishery resources

On this World Oceans Day, Oceana is asking for global protected marine areas to be multiplied by at least 15 to protect threatened species and ensure the subsistence of millions of people

Press Release Date: June 4, 2010

Location: Madrid


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Oceana is calling for an urgent and exponential increase in marine protected areas worldwide to avoid the collapse of fishery resources that scientific studies are foreseeing for the middle of this century. On the occasion of World Environment Day (June 5) and World Oceans Day (June 8), Oceana is highlighting the squandering of ecological and economic riches. This in turn stalls the protection of seabeds, endangering many species and compromising the subsistence of millions of people.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has only evaluated the conservation status of 2,100 species, and for one third of these species, it acknowledges that its data are insufficient. ”The loss of marine biodiversity is hurtling at an unprecedented pace, and many species are disappearing before they can even be studied due to factors such as climate change, pollution, overfishing or destruction of their habitats”, states Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe.

At present, only 0.7% of the marine surface is protected, versus 12.9% of the land surface, and many threatened species do not fall within any protected area. This means a breach of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity that requires a minimum of 10% before 2012, and it is very far from the 20% requested by IUCN. Therefore, Oceana is urging for the total marine protected area to be multiplied by at least 15.

Current management of the oceans has not only driven them to a critical situation from an environmental point of view, but it already has socioeconomic effects. A number of marine scientists estimate that if the current pace of exploitation continues, by 2048, all fish stocks will be collapsed or will have disappeared[i].

At present, the FAO calculates that 80% of the world fishery resources are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted[ii]. And that jeopardizes the jobs of 8% of the world population, that lives directly or indirectly from fishing, and the subsistence of 1 billion people from poorest countries that depend on fish as their main source of animal protein.

The current fishing policies are unsustainable in the medium term. For instance, many species lack management plans -such as minimum sizes and quotas- and fishing gears are often not selective. Bottom trawling, for example, destroys sea beds entirely, whether fish without commercial interest, centuries-old coral or sea fans. Every year, 7.3 million tons of catches are discarded and returned to the sea worldwide.[iii], a quantity similar to the entire African continent’s annual fish and seafood consumption[iv].

Therefore, Oceana is requesting an urgent change in fisheries policy priorities that must support long-term management and protect ecosystems. In certain cases, biodiversity losses are unrecoverable, and in others, simply too expensive. For instance, Oceana calculates that to recover 10 hectares of degraded seagrass meadows costs 7.2 million Euros, 500 times more expensive than placing it under protection, and without guaranteeing that the resources associated with it will be recovered.

Protected areas enable the regeneration of habitats and food and reproduction of species. Besides these environmental benefits, scientific studies demonstrate that they are profitable in the medium and long term from an economic point of view. For instance, the UNEP estimates that the total value of the services provided by coral reefs is between 100,000 and 600,000 dollars[v] per square kilometer including protecting beaches against storms and erosion, sustaining commercial fisheries, tourism, construction material and pharmaceutical products.

Protected areas also benefit fishing because they enable species to recover. “The protection of a marine area ends up causing a biomass spillover because the population increase pushes many individuals to move to surrounding waters, thus increasing the size and volume of fishery catches. In fact, there have recently been fishermen associations that request them to be declared.” comments Pastor. In this regard, Oceana has presented specific proposals of areas of ecological importance that deserve protection at the end of its expeditions.


Oceana has available video footage and photographs of species, habitats and fisheries

Oceana TV: World Ocean Day

Fact sheet: Status of European seas

Reports: Habitats in Danger, Hungry Oceans