The MEA Repository
Marine Environment and Resource Degradation
    Current trends
  • Coastal waters have been contaminated by land-based sources, particularly municipal wastes that cause eutrophication.
  • Red tides have increased in distribution and frequency in many coastal seas, and there are links to eutrophication.
  • Oceanic waters already show human impacts, both in terms of trace contaminants and measurable temperature and sea-level increase.
  • Total marine fish production is leveling off as the landings of demersal fish have remained constant since the l970s.
  • More than two-thirds of the world's marine fish stocks are being fished at or beyond their level of maximum productivity.
  • The Atlantic Ocean was fully fished in 1980, the Pacific Ocean will be by 1999, and the remaining large areas are still developing.
  • Many fishery resources classified as overexploited in l992 have been showing decreased yields for the last 20 years, and are now producing 6 million tons less than they did in 1985.

    Underlying causes of change

  • Overfishing.
  • Inadequate waste management on land, particularly in rapidly growing coastal settlements.
  • Destruction of natural cover of watersheds.

    Projected impact of human activities on the oceans

  • Increased extent of coastal areas becoming unsuitable for recreation and food production.
  • Loss of coral reefs and mangroves.
  • Contribution to sea-level rises.
  • Collapse of additional fish stocks.

    Social and economic consequences of projected changes

  • Greater incidence of illness due to consumption of contaminated fish and shellfish.
  • Decline in marine fisheries production, and increased prices resulting in lower per capita consumption, especially among the poor.
  • Unemployment and social dislocation caused by the collapse of traditional fisheries.
  • Decline in coastal tourism.
  • Increased cost of coastal protection measures.

    Technologies, policies, and measures to mitigate projected changes

  • Improved management of fisheries, both capture and culture.
  • Better waste management (implementation of the Washington Declaration).
  • Improved monitoring of coastal waters to prevent health-related problems.

    Status of international agreements

  • U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea, first signed in 1982, came into force in 1994.
  • Agreement for the Implementation of the Provision of the U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea Relating to the Conser- vation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks - New York, August 1995.

"Protecting Our Planet, Securing Our Future" UNEP / U.S. NASA / World Bank, 1997