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Ocean wealth valued at US$24 trillion, but declining fast

A new report from WWF, Reviving the Ocean Economy: The case for action - 2015, finds that the value of key ocean assets rivals the size of the world’s leading economies, but its resources are rapidly diminishing.

A new report from WWF, Reviving the Ocean Economy: The case for action - 2015, finds that the value of key ocean assets rivals the size of the world’s leading economies, but its resources are rapidly diminishing.

Conservatively, the value of those assets is at least US$24 trillion. If compared to the world’s top 10 economies, the ocean would rank seventh globally, behind the United States, China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, and ahead of such economic powerhouses as Brazil, Russia and India, with an annual value of goods and services of US$2.5 trillion.

But the ocean's future is stormy as it faces an unrelenting assault on resources through over-exploitation, misuse and climate change.

The ocean directly feeds, employs and protects hundreds of millions of people, and supports all life on Earth through its role in climate stabilisation, oxygen production and more.

It is also a powerful economic force that requires a protection plan.

More than two-thirds of the annual value of the ocean relies on healthy conditions to maintain its annual economic output. Collapsing fisheries, mangrove deforestation as well as disappearing corals and seagrass are threatening the marine economic engine that secures lives and livelihoods around the world.

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.

It is not too late to reverse these trends and ensure a healthy ocean that benefits people, business and nature. The following eight-point action plan would restore ocean resources to their full potential. All eight proposed actions are achievable and important, however the first three are the most urgent and must be prioritized for action in 2015.

8 Point Action Plan

ACTION 1   Ensure ocean recovery features strongly in the UN Post-2015 Agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
ACTION 2   Listen to science and make the deep cuts in emissions that will prevent further increases in dangerous climate change. It is vital that the world signs on to an ambitious international agreement in Paris in December 2015 (COP21).
ACTION 3   Protect and effectively manage 10% of representative coastal and marine areas by 2020, increasing coverage to 30 per cent by 2030.
ACTION 4   Rebuild fish stocks to ecologically sustainable harvest levels and deal with the problem of illegal fishing.
ACTION 5   Create a “Blue Alliance” of concerned maritime countries to drive new global cooperation and investment for the ocean.
ACTION 6   Create a network of public-private partnerships that take into account the well-being of communities, ecosystems and business.
ACTION 7   Communities and countries must develop complete, transparent and public accounting of the benefits, goods and services that the ocean provides.
ACTION 8   Share knowledge more effectively and drive institutional collaboration to that problems can be understood and solutions applied.

The Report in Numbers

  • The total value of key ocean assets is conservatively estimated at $24 trillion USD
  • The ocean produces an annual value of goods and services of $2.5 trillion USD
  • 2/3rds of that value is being threatened by over-exploitation, misue and climate change
  • 90% of global fish stocks are over or fully-exploited
  • 2050 – the year by which all coral reefs will completely disappear at the current rate of warming
  • Globally, mangroves are being deforested 3 to 5 times faster than forest areas
  • 50% of the world’s corals have already disappeared
  • Almost 1/3 of all sea grasses have already been lost
  • The ocean produces 50% of the oxygen that we breathe