Worldwatch Paper #145: Safeguarding the Health of Oceans

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Worldwatch Paper #145: Safeguarding the Health of Oceans 376.72KB

March 1999
Anne Platt McGinn
ISBN: 1-878071-47-5
87 pages

For much of human history, humanity has treated oceans as inexhaustible both in terms of what they could produce and in terms of what they could absorb. But humanity has pushed the world's oceans close to--and in some cases past--their natural limits. In this thorough review of the challenges facing us in managing oceans, author Anne Platt McGinn examines the threats to our oceans and prescribes the steps we must take quickly to protect ocean health.

The problems afflicting oceans are growing, from relentless overfishing by government-subsidized fleets to the insidious accumulation of thousands of chemicals in marine food chains. And too many international institutions working on oceanic issues were created to promote economic growth and development.

In the light of these threats, McGinn argues that we are poised at the edge of an explosion of information about oceans because of recent scientific and technological advances. The key question at this critical juncture is whether this new knowledge will be bent to the service of the old, increasingly destructive view of oceans as limitless, or to the new awareness of their fragility and importance to all life on the planet.

The fundamental challenge in protecting oceans is to make them more visible to people and communities who may not realize that they have a stake in the health of oceans. Better public understanding and political support are essential for carrying out the detailed program McGinn proposes for advancing ocean protection.