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Our Common Responsibility To Protect The Ocean


Commercial fishermen, mariners form "SOS" to spread message of saving oceans, Homer, Alaska. (File)

Today, some 12 percent of the global population makes its livelihood from the sea. And therein lies the problem: we humans are killing the ocean.

Simply put, without the ocean, there is no life on earth. At the most basic level, the ocean produces 50 to 70 percent of our oxygen. It regulates our climate, absorbs carbon dioxide, and supports the greatest abundance of life on our planet. Today, some 12 percent of the global population makes its livelihood from the sea. And therein lies the problem: we humans are killing the ocean.

As fishermen endeavor to supply the demand for seafood, they take too many fish, particularly the more popular species. Today, an estimated 29 percent of the world’s fish stocks are overexploited, while another 61 percent cannot support expanded harvest and require effective management to avoid decline. Some stocks of tuna, swordfish, halibut, cod, and flounder populations have been devastated by overfishing.

“The ocean is threatened today as never before,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. “It is threatened by over-pollution, it is threatened by climate change, which is having a profound impact on acidity of the ocean, which has an impact on all of the ecosystem, and it is profoundly affected by overfishing. There is too much money chasing too few fish, and most of the major fisheries of the world are either in extremis or near extremis.”

The Obama Administration is particularly committed to improving the health of our ocean, and is considering ways to expand protections for vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean where the United States has jurisdiction. At Secretary Kerry’s Our Ocean Conference in Washington this past June, participants from around the globe announced new commitments on the protection of more than three million square kilometers of the ocean, and dedicated more than 800 million dollars to conserve the ocean and its resources.

“We are committed to addressing the threats to the health of the oceans posed by climate change, as we have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions through strong action in the U.S., putting us on the path to meeting the U.S. goal of reducing emissions in range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020,” said Secretary Kerry.

“Our hope is that, in the next few years, there will be a new consciousness created about the responsibility to the ocean and the extraordinary connection of the ocean to everything we do and need to do on Earth itself.”

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