Yet when we devalue our natural capital, it is often the poor who feel the greatest harm. Oceansprovide a wealth of goods and services that make a tremendous contribution to overcoming poverty,creating opportunity, and spurring economic growth.Let’s look at just one dimension of the oceans: fish and seafood.
One billion people in developing countries depend upon fish and seafood for their primary source ofprotein. Over half a billion people in developing countries depend on fishing as a livelihood. Half arewomen.
For developing countries, including many island and coastal nations, fish represent the single mosttraded food product, valued at $25 billion a year. For many Pacific Island countries, fish make up 80percent of total exports.
For some countries, the fishing trade is absolutely critical for their growth. In Sierra Leone, fisheriesaccount for as much as 10 percent of GDP; for the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati, it’s 53 percent. InSenegal, fishing creates about 600,000 jobs and employs 17 percent of the labor force.
Fishing licenses can be a critical income source. In Guinea Bissau, the annual fishing license sold tothe EU at one point represented close to 50 percent of government revenues. When catches shrink,or a country is unable to keep other countries from fishing its seas, license prices fall too.
The living ocean is also home to millions of animal and plant species, important to maintainingecosystem health – and to a large global industry in recreation and ecotourism. In the Seychelles, forexample, a country consisting of 115 islands, tourism accounts for 25 percent of GDP. Coral reeftourism alone has an estimated economic value of more than $20 billion a year. More livelihoodsstem from ocean research.Around the world, we estimate that about 350 million jobs are linked to the oceans through fishing,aquaculture, coastal and marine tourism, and research.Ocean ecosystems – mangroves, bogs, reefs, wetlands, and barrier islands – are becoming moreimportant for protecting increasingly populous coastal areas against natural hazards. Some 275million people live in coastal economies dependent on coral reefs, for example – and they are amongthe most vulnerable to climate change and extreme events.For hundreds of millions of people around the world, oceans are essential for providing food, jobs,livelihoods, and protection.Oceans are the home of an under-recognized and under-appreciated “blue economy.” At a timewhen the world is looking for sources of growth, there is huge potential for “blue growth” – wiselypreserving and investing in the value of ocean ecosystems to fight poverty and improve lives.
But oceans aren’t living up to their potential.
Rebuilding Oceans: What Will It Take?
Why not?There is already a wealth of valuable knowledge and experience about how to restore our oceans – as well as considerable resources devoted to the challenge.
NGOs invest about $100 million a year in oceans. Organizations such as Conservation International,The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund have done a tremendous job in bringing theproblems facing oceans to public attention, while also showing the way to innovative solutions withmarine protected areas and projects within countries to deal with pollution or rebuilding fish stocks.