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Declining ocean health threatens food security
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (SPX) Mar 18, 2014

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We must protect our ocean or risk significant impact on global food security stated The Global Ocean Commission, an independent international panel of global leaders championing ocean health and high seas governance.

With 3 billion people dependent on fish to provide at least 20% per cent of their animal protein, protecting the health of the global ocean is critical to global food security. Overfishing is widespread and systemic, primarily affecting the poorest, for many of whom fish is an irreplaceable food source.

The loss of reliable sources of fish would deprive 500 million people of their primary source of protein and cause severe health problems.

"Healthy high seas are fundamental to overall ocean productivity and resilience, yet we are pushing the ocean system to the point of collapse and putting long-term food security at risk," said Trevor Manuel, co-chair of the Global Ocean Commission.

"If we want future food security, we need to act now to restore a healthy ocean."

Key threats include overfishing, adverse fishing subsidies and climate change. With Asia Pacific alone accounting for more than 70% of the world fleet and over half the annual global harvest, the impact of overfishing is likely to be significant in this region.

The ocean is also facing mounting pressure from climate change. Rising concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases are increasing water temperatures, causing acidification, and reducing oxygen content and overall ocean resilience. Rising water temperatures are already pushing many fish stocks towards higher, cooler latitudes, threatening food security in tropical regions reliant on fish.

"Ocean acidification and warming temperatures are hugely complex, long-term problems but overfishing is something that we can tackle right now, with tools already at our disposal", said Jose Maria Figueres, Global Ocean Commission co-chair.

"Building on successes such as the Coral Triangle Initiative is vital in strengthening the regional collaboration required."

The Global Ocean Commission believes it's important to support countries in building their capabilities in the management of our shared global resources. This week in Hong Kong the Commissioners agreed a detailed package of proposals for ocean restoration and governance reform that will be made public and presented to the UN in June this year.

Priorities requiring action include overfishing; illegal fishing; fishing subsidies; ocean acidification; oil and gas; plastic pollution; and ocean governance and protection.

"We've agreed to an ocean rescue package," said David Miliband, Global Ocean Commission co-chair. "Now we need governments, business and civil society to join us in implementing it. We know what needs to be done but we can't do it alone."


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