Greenpeace and Scientists ask that at Least 30% of the Oceans be Protected by 2030

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Less than 3% of the world’s oceans are protected and Greenpeace and a dozen scientists demand that at least 30% be protected by 2030 in order to safeguard marine biodiversity and help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

This proposal appears in the report ’30×30: Guide for the protection of the oceans’, a research carried out for more than a year by scientists from the British universities of Edinburgh, Oxford, Salford and York, as well as by a representative of Greenpeace United Kingdom.

The 96-page study was released Thursday in the final stage of the second of the four rounds of negotiations that the United Nations is promoting to reach a new Global Oceans Treaty that protects life in the high seas or international waters by 2020.

The high seas form a vast world heritage that covers 61% of the ocean area and 73% of its volume. It also includes 43% of the surface of the Earth and 70% of the vital space on the planet, including land and sea. And yet, less than 3% of the oceans are protected.

The researchers divided all the oceans, which cover almost half the planet, into 25,000 units of 100×100 kilometers and then mapped the distribution of 458 different conservation features, including the distribution of fauna, ecosystems or key oceanographic features, which generate hundreds of possible scenarios for a worldwide network of oceanic sanctuaries, free of the most harmful human activity.

The study purposely avoided areas of high importance for commercial fishing to show how this network of marine sanctuaries could function both environmentally and economically.

The marine life that the oceans harbor is the engine of the ‘biological pump’ of the ocean, since it captures the carbon on the surface and stores it at great depth. Without this essential service, the atmosphere would contain 50% more carbon dioxide and the temperature of the planet would be so high that it would become uninhabitable. That is, the current atmospheric CO2 concentrations would be about 200 parts per million higher than they are, which is twice as much as now.

However, “the oceans are currently facing increasing exploitation by a handful of rich nations,” according to Greenpeace. Overfishing, the search for genetic resources and the emerging mining industry in the seabed add to broader threats such as climate change, acidification or contamination by plastics.

Greenpeace and Scientists ask that at Least 30% of the Oceans be Protected by 2030


According to Greenpeace, “practically the same is known of the surface of the Moon that of the bottom of the oceans”. Between 2000 and 2010, more than 6,000 new species previously unknown in open waters were surveyed.

However, he indicated that there are companies that have embarked on the search for genetic resources in the seabed, which translates into “gold in the form of patents”. For example, only the chemical transnational BASF has registered 47% of the patents of marine genetic resources.

In addition, seabed mining has gone from being a debate concept to becoming a reality in the last decade. So far, 29 concessions have been issued for the exploration of nodules of polymetals, sulphides and zones rich in cobalt from the seabed.

Greenpeace stressed that fishing activities take place in 55% of the ocean surface. Five nations hold 77% of the fishing fleet on the high seas: China, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia and Spain. Since 1950, thanks to technological improvements, it has been possible to fish every decade 350 meters deeper. 59.9% of the analyzed fish stocks are exploited up to their maximum sustainable yield.

As for the Arctic, which is the most unprotected ocean on the planet, it now reaches summer temperatures between 2 and 3 ° C warmer than the average between 1982 and 2010. With fewer ice floes, polar bears depredate 90% of the seabird nests of Greenland or Svalbard. With higher temperatures it has been possible to find Atlantic mackerels in the Norwegian Arctic.

In 1998, a plastic bag was found at 10,898 meters deep. It is estimated that at least 690 species have encountered marine debris. 92% of these ‘meetings’ have been with plastics. Of 626 frank whales analyzed in the North Atlantic, 83% showed signs of interaction with plastics.

With a length of 65,000 kilometers, the Atlantic mid-ocean ridge is the longest mountain range in the world. Only the Annan seamount, in the outer waters of West Africa, contains 30,000 species. And only 0.002% of the 170,000 seamounts estimated to exist have been investigated.

The marine plankton accumulates a concentration of methylmercury between 500 and 500,000 times higher than the surrounding water. A study published this year confirms that most exposure to methylmercury in the United States came from seafood caught in the open sea (45%). This has implications for the health of people, since exposure to methylmercury is associated with adverse effects on neurological development and cardiovascular health.

Greenpeace and Scientists ask that at Least 30% of the Oceans be Protected by 2030


The oceans face threats as powerful as the search for genetic resources, which are the biological basis of world food security, but can be used for the generation of pharmaceutical patents.

“The speed at which the high seas of some of its most spectacular and iconic animals have been fleeced continues to surprise us,” said Callum Roberts, a marine conservation biologist at York University and the study leader.

Roberts said that “the extraordinary losses of seabirds, turtles, sharks and marine mammals reveal a flawed system of government that United Nations governments must urgently address.”

“This report shows how protected areas could develop in international waters to create a protective network that will help prevent the extinction of numerous species and to survive on a planet facing global change,” he added.

Negotiations sponsored by the UN towards a Global Oceans Treaty could pave the way for the protection of oceans beyond national borders, covering 230 million square kilometers. Currently, less than 3% of these waters are protected.

The new research reveals what it would mean to fully protect 30% and 50% of the world’s oceans. Through an interactive map it is possible to explore the different scenarios for their protection, as well as the hot spots of biodiversity and the main threats that the oceans are currently facing.

“Creating marine protected areas is essential to protect and conserve the diversity of marine life,” said Alex Rogers, a professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, who added: “This report shows a solid approach to developing a global network of protected marine areas on the high seas, based on the knowledge accumulated over the years by science about the distribution of species, including those in danger of extinction, habitats that are recognized as critical points of biodiversity and unique ecosystems “.

Greenpeace and Scientists ask that at Least 30% of the Oceans be Protected by 2030

A pod of dolphins are pictured swimming close to the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, 20 miles off the north coast of Corsica, in the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals.

“Our oceans are threatened as never before in history, and for the first time research shows that it is entirely possible to create a robust network of marine sanctuaries on the entire planet, not just lines drawn on a map, but a coherent network of protection. interconnected that covers areas of high biodiversity of species, corridors of migration and critical ecosystems, “said Pilar Marcos, responsible for the Oceans campaign in Greenpeace, which has participated in the UN negotiations.


Source: Ecodiario Eleconomista