The ocean, were it to be regarded as an economy with a $24trillion GDP, would sit just behind the UK's, the successful management of which is the very linchpin of the current election campaigns. Yet, we don't seem to attach the same urgency to protecting such valuable assets when they aren't seen in the same way.
The sea's enormous wealth is revealed in the report through assessments of goods and services we all use in some way, ranging from fisheries to coastal storm protection, but it also describes an unrelenting assault on ocean resources through over-exploitation, misuse and climate change. 90 per cent of global fish stocks either over-exploited or fully exploited, for example, and climate change is warming waters and leading to a rise in ocean acidity that will take hundreds of human generations for the oceans to repair.
But it is not too late to reverse the troubling trends and ensure a healthy ocean that benefits people, business and nature. Reviving the Ocean Economy presents an eight-point action plan that would restore ocean resources to their full potential, and three that require action this year are: embedding ocean recovery throughout the UN's Sustainable Development Goals; taking global action on climate change and; making good on strong commitments to deliver well-managed coastal and marine protected areas.
David Nussbaum, CEO of WWF-UK said:
Our oceans are a climate regulator and carbon sink, supporting future global economic growth, as well as providing critical goods and services that underpin the well-being of billions of people. But rising temperatures and increased acidification put all this at risk.
"We should recognise the role our oceans play as an important business asset that requires sustainable management and investment - and governments should fully support and implement the UN Sustainable Development Goal on the ocean."
The ocean is changing more rapidly than at any other point in millions of years, at the same time as growth in human population and a heavy reliance on the sea. This makes restoring the ocean economy a matter of global urgency. Climate change is a leading cause of the ocean's failing health. Research included in the report shows that at the current rate of warming, coral reefs that provide food, jobs and storm protection to several hundred million people will disappear completely by 2050.
Head of UK Marine Policy at WWF-UK, Lyndsey Dodds, said that "from a UK perspective, our government must recognise the value of our seas and ensure their protection, starting with swift designation of the next tranche of Marine Conservation Zones. These zones - along with other measures - such as improved fisheries management - are essential to safeguard the marine assets that underpin the UK economy".
The report was produced in association with The Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
WWF's global ocean campaign, Sustain Our Seas, builds on decades of work by the organization and its partners on marine conservation. WWF is working with governments, businesses and communities to encourage leaders to take urgent measures to revive the ocean economy and protect the lives and livelihoods of billions of people around the world.