Tax Havens Enable Illegal Logging, Fishing

George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands, is known as a financial hub and a port of call for cruise ships. Dec. 7, 2017 (Photo by Jorge Brazilian) Creative Commons license via Flickr

George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands, is known as a financial hub and a port of call for cruise ships. Dec. 7, 2017 (Photo by Jorge Brazilian) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 21, 2018 ( News) – Tax havens such as Singapore, Panama and the Cayman Islands provide financial secrecy for industries associated with environmentally destructive activities on a global scale, new research demonstrates.

The first study to show how tax havens are linked to economic sectors that can have serious global environmental impacts has been published by a team of Swedish researchers.

“Our analysis shows that the use of tax havens is not only a socio-political and economic challenge, but also an environmental one,” says Victor Galaz, lead author of the new study, published in the journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution.”

“While the use of tax haven jurisdictions is not illegal in itself,” he explains, “financial secrecy hampers the ability to analyze how financial flows affect economic activities on the ground, and their environmental impacts.”

The study, titled “Tax havens and global environmental degradation” is part of an on-going research project called “Earth System Finance: New perspectives on financial markets and sustainability.”

Researchers on the study are from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) at Stockholm University and Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB), Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The analysis was conducted in collaboration with the nonprofit global research platform Future Earth, which aims to “transform the world toward sustainability” with the participation of thousands of scientists.

Connecting Tax Havens With Illegal Fishing

The new research reveals that 70 percent of known vessels involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are, or have been, flagged under a tax haven jurisdiction, in particular Belize and Panama.

Many tax havens are also flags of convenience states. These are countries with limited monitoring and enforcement capacity that do not penalize vessels sailing under their flag even if they are identified as operating in violation of international law.

The combination of tax havens and flags of convenience allow companies to sail fishing vessels with dual identities – one for legal and the other for illegal fishing activities.

“The global nature of fisheries value chains, complex ownership structures and limited governance capacities of many coastal nations, make the sector susceptible to the use of tax havens,” says co-author Henrik Österblom, deputy science director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The analysis of tax havens’ role in unsustainable and illegal fishing activities was made by combining multiple datasets on fishing vessels and flag information, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Fishing Vessel Finder, data from Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, and Interpol.

“The absence of a more systemic view is not surprising considering the chronic lack of data resulting from the financial opaqueness created by the use of these jurisdictions,” says co-author Beatrice Crona, GEDB executive director.

This lack of transparency hides how tax havens are linked to degradation of environmental commons that are crucial for both people and planet at global scales, Crona says.

The Amazon rainforest provides for all by stabilizing the Earth’s climate system, while the ocean provides a vital source of protein and income for millions of people worldwide, particularly in low-income, food-deficit countries.

An illegal timber site in the state of Rondonia, Brazil, July 6, 2007 (Photo by Joelle Hernandez) Creative Commons license via Flickr

An illegal timber site in the state of Rondonia, Brazil, July 6, 2007 (Photo by Joelle Hernandez) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Hiding the Flow of Funds to Log the Amazon

The paper features the first quantification of foreign capital that flows into the beef and soy sectors operating in the Brazilian Amazon, two sectors linked to deforestation.

The underlying dataset, based on data from the Central Bank of Brazil, includes “register of foreign capital” for the period between October 2000 and August 2011.

This allowed the researchers to make the first quantification ever of flows of foreign capital from financial actors based outside of Brazil to the beef and soy sector operating in the Brazilian Amazon.

The Cayman Islands turned out to be the largest transfer jurisdiction for foreign capital to these sectors operating in the Brazilian Amazon.

This well-known tax haven provides three benefits to investors: legal efficiency, tax-minimization and secrecy.

Future Governance Can Improve

The authors suggest three issues they believe should be central in future research efforts and governance of tax havens:

1) The loss of tax revenue caused by tax havens should be considered as indirect subsidies to economic activities with negative impacts on global commons;

2) Leading international fora and organizations, like UN Environment, should assess the environmental costs of these subsidies;

3) The international community should view tax evasion and aggressive tax planning as not only a socio-political problem, but also as an environmental one.

Where Are the Tax Havens?

There is no precise definition of a tax haven. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) initially listed these features of tax havens: no or low taxes, lack of effective exchange of information, lack of transparency, and no requirement of substantial activity. Other lists have been developed in legislative proposals and by researchers.

Table 1: Countries on Tax Haven Lists

Caribbean/West Indies: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Turks and Caicos, U.S. Virgin Islands

Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, Panama

Coast of East Asia: Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore

Europe/Mediterranean: Andorra, Channel Islands (Guernsey and Jersey), Cyprus, Gibralter, Isle of Man,

Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland

Indian Ocean: Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles

Middle East: Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon

North Atlantic: Bermuda

Pacific: South Pacific Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Nauru, Niue, Tonga, Vanuatu

West Africa: Liberia

The Tax Justice Network probably has the largest list of tax havens. In addition to the countries listed in Table 1, they include in the Americas and Caribbean, New York and Uruguay; in Africa, Mellila, Sao Tome e Principe, Somalia, and South Africa; in the Middle East and Asia, Dubai, Labuan (Malaysia), Tel Aviv, and Taipei; in Europe, Alderney, Belgium, Campione d’Italia, City of London, Dublin, Ingushetia, Madeira, Sark, Trieste, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and Frankfurt; and in the Indian and Pacific oceans, the Marianas.

Featured Image: Tuna is trans-shipped from an illegal, unregistered and unlicensed (IUU) purse seine fishing vessel onto a cold storage vessel, on the high seas, close to the border with Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Greenpeace caught the two vessels breaching international law by trans-shipping large quantities of tuna in international waters. In addition to breaking international law, the fishing of juvenile yellowfin tuna is unsustainable. November 24, 2011 (Photo by Alex Hofford / Greenpeace Australia Pacific) Media use permitted


Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean

Road sign warns of flooding in Wachapreague, Virginia on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Photo by Aileen Devlin / Virginia Sea Grant) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Road sign warns of flooding in Wachapreague, Virginia on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Photo by Aileen Devlin / Virginia Sea Grant) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ISPRA, Italy, August 14, 2018 (  News) – Famous Hawaiian swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku always warned, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” He wanted people to watch out for the physical dangers of being hit by a wave from behind, and he wanted humankind to show respect for the ocean – a warning that today is more urgent than ever.

The findings of two Joint Research Centre (JRC) studies released on Monday show that without increased investment in coastal adaptation, the annual damage caused by coastal floods in Europe could increase from €1.25 billion today to between €93 billion and €961 billion by the end of the century.

One in three citizens of the European Union lives within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the coast. Due to an increase in extreme sea levels driven by global warming, coastal floods could impact up to 3.65 million people every year in Europe by 2100, compared to around 102,000 people affected today.

In the JRC studies scientists project both how global extreme sea levels will change during the present century, and also how rising seas combined with socioeconomic change will affect future losses from coastal flooding.

Sea levels are rising, and the trajectory is expected to continue beyond the year 2100, even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized right now. Most scientists expect the sea to rise by at least one meter (39 inches) during this century, and many believe sea levels may even rise three meters by 2100, in view of new evidence on ice-cliff instability of the Antarctic.

Antarctica alone has the potential to contribute more than a meter of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 meters by 2500, if emissions continue unabated, finds a 2016 study by Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts’ Department of Geosciences, and David Pollard of Penn State University’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute.

DeConto and Pollard warn that atmospheric warming will become the dominant driver of ice loss, and prolonged ocean warming will delay ocean recovery for “thousands of years.”

With continued ocean and atmospheric warming, sea levels are likely to rise for many centuries at rates higher than that of the current century, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Flood damage to the city of Ōfunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. July 2011, (Photo by George Olcott) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Flood damage to the city of Ōfunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. July 2011, (Photo by George Olcott) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Global warming is expected to drive increasing extreme sea levels and flood risk along all the world’s coastlines. This year sea levels continue their upward movement, rising about three inches higher than levels measured in 1993.

Higher sea levels mean that deadly and destructive storm surges push farther inland than they once did, causing more frequent flooding.

In cities, rising seas threaten infrastructure underpinning local jobs and regional industries. Roads, bridges, subways, water supplies, oil and gas wells, power plants, sewage treatment plants, landfills – virtually all human infrastructure – is at risk from sea level rise, NOAA warns.

European scientists are issuing equally urgent warnings of “unprecedented flood risk unless timely adaptation measures are taken.”

The JRC researchers considered two scenarios – one where moderate policy efforts are made to mitigate climate change and a business as usual situation.

They concluded that in order for Europe to keep future coastal flood losses constant relative to the size of the economy, defense structures need to be installed or reinforced to withstand increases in extreme sea levels ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 meters (1.64 to 8.2 feet).

The researchers identified climate change as the main driver of the projected rise in costs from coastal flooding. This is a change from the current situation globally, where increasing risk has been driven by socioeconomic development.

In the United States, almost 40 percent of the population lives in high-population-density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms.

Globally, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast, according to the United Nations Atlas of the Oceans . These are the cities most at risk of sea level rise. They are: Tokyo, Japan; Mumbai, India; New York City, USA; Shanghai, China; Lagos, Nigeria; Los Angeles, USA; Calcutta, India; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A flood inundates St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Konstantinos Tamvakis)

A flood inundates St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Konstantinos Tamvakis)

The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise, according to a 2017 study in “Scientific Reports” from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Hawaii.

The study, led by Sean Vitousek, a engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, projects increases in flooding for Pacific islands, parts of Southeast Asia and coastlines along India, Africa and South America in the years and decades ahead, before spreading to engulf nearly the entire tropical region.

Alarming projections by Climate Central, a U.S.-based climate change science and advocacy group, show that approximately one million South Africans live in areas that will be inundated by rising seas as the climate warms, unless carbon emissions are cut steeply by the year 2100.

A World Bank study  published in March identified coastal areas with low elevation, and assessed the consequences of continued sea-level rise for 84 developing countries, using satellite maps of the world overlaid with data on population growth.

Including 12 Southeast Asian nations: Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, D.P.R Korea, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – the World Bank study found that the impact of sea-level rise will be particularly severe for this region.

A one-meter rise may displace some 37 million people, the World Bank concluded. The number of vulnerable people would increase to 60 million with a two-meter rise. A three-meter rise can impact 90 million people, nearly equivalent to the population of Vietnam, the fourth most populated country in East Asia.

China and Indonesia are the two countries most vulnerable to permanent inundation.

In March, China’s oceanic authority called for measures to cope with rising sea levels.

A report released by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said that the average sea level along China’s coast in 2017 was 58 mm (2.28 inches) higher than the average level between 1993 and 2011.

Over the past six years, the sea level along China’s coast has remained high compared with the previous 24 years.

The situation is the result of climate change and global warming, which have increased the temperature of China’s coastal regions and the ocean, according to the SOA report.

Rising sea levels will increase the area inundated by sea water, aggravate marine disasters, and harm the ecosystem, Chen Zhi, an SOA official, told the state-run Xinhua news agency in March.

The report said China’s ability to prevent and respond to disasters should be improved. The layout of coastal cities and infrastructure planning should take the rising sea levels into account, and emergency shelters and warehouses for disaster relief supplies should be located a safe distance from high-risk areas.

The SOA report advises that China’s coastal cities should verify the flood protection ability and upgrade design standards for important infrastructure projects in the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the northern coastal area of Bohai, near Beijing.

The report calls for protecting ecological resources, including coastal mangroves and wetlands.

The management of coastal water resources must be strengthened, the SOA advised, saying that the overexploitation of groundwater and land subsidence in coastal regions should be controlled in order to reduce harm from salt tides, sea water encroachment, and soil salinization.

China’s State Oceanic Administration report proposes pushing forward international cooperation in global marine governance, such as observation and prediction, risk assessment, and the response to rising sea levels.

One response that promotes safety, as Duke Kahanamoku said, “Never turn your back on the ocean.”

Featured Image: Wave breaks on the coast of Ireland, September 29, 2013 (Photo by John Twohig) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Seafood Giants Partner for Sustainable Oceans

ThaiFishingBoatBy Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 22, 2017 ( News) – For the first time, 10 of the world’s largest seafood companies have formed a new global coalition aimed at ending unsustainable practices, such as overfishing, slavery at sea and destructive impacts on ocean habitats and marine species.

The initiative, the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS), marks the first time that companies from Asia, Europe and the United States have joined forces to work on a clear agenda and commitment for change.

“If private corporations, which are critically dependent on a healthy ocean for their long-term prosperity, take on a leading role in ocean stewardship, then it is good for business and good for the planet,” says Henrik Österblom, a driving force behind the SeaBOS initiative. Professor Österblom is deputy science director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) of Stockholm University.

HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden supports the initiative.

The oceans are under enormous pressure due to extensive fishing, pollution and climate change. While governments are beginning to address these issues, doubts remain whether formal government responses are enough to deal with the many global challenges facing the marine ecosystems.

Researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre have since 2012 worked on identifying the largest corporations in the global seafood industry. These are known as keystone actors because they dominate all parts of seafood production, operate through an extensive global network of subsidiaries and make far-reaching decisions that impact fisheries and aquaculture.

The initiative now includes 10 of the largest seafood companies in the world.

They are:

  • two of the world’s largest tuna companies, Thai Union Group PCL and Dongwon Industries of South Korea;
  •  the two largest companies by revenue, Maruha Nichiro Corporation and Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd, both of Japan;
  • the two largest salmon farmers, Marine Harvest ASA of Norway and Cermaq, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation;
  • the two largest aquafeeds companies, from Norway, Skretting, a subsidiary of Nutreco, and Cargill Aqua Nutrition of the United States and Norway;
  • the Japanese tuna purse seine company Kyokuyo
  • the Thai agro-industrial conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Foods

By joining the SeaBOS initiative, companies such as Charoen Pakphand Foods are moving to rise above allegations of slavery aboard supplier boats.

In June 2014, after months of investigation, the British newspaper “The Guardian” claimed that Charoen Pokphand Foods  purchased fishmeal for its farmed prawns from suppliers that own, operate, or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.

The Guardian claimed that after the slaves are bought “for as little as £250”, the working conditions on those boats included forced labor with 20-hour work days, forced drug use, starvation, and executions.

A year later, human rights organizations, including Anti-Slavery International, Environmental Justice Foundation and Greenpeace USA urged then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to pressure Thailand into taking more decisive action to counter trafficking.

The company began to take steps to correct any questionable practices.

In September 2015, Adirek Sripratak, the president and CEO of Charoen Pokphand, posted a “Statement to Shareholders” pledging to purchase only from certified processing plants and acquire product only from certified Thai fisheries. He stated that supply chain “…fishing vessels, fishmeal processing plants…must be certified by Thailand’s Labor Standard or have been audited…by an external agency (Third Party)….”

The Environmental Justice Foundation says abuses in Thai seafood sector persist, despite arrests linked to human rights abuses and the threat of an EU-wide boycott.

Charoen Pokphand won a court case in the United States in January 2017. The U.S. District Court, Northern District of California ruled on multiple grounds in favor of CP Foods in relation to litigation that claimed damages related to the alleged presence of human rights abuses in the supply chain for Thai shrimp. The court’s order bars the plaintiffs from bringing such claims again.

Yet, the UK-based Environmental Justice Foundation says slavery at sea persists. A EJF report earlier this month found “Taiwan’s fishing industry is plagued by illegal activities and fueled by the systemic abuse of its workers.”

“Vulnerable fishers are trafficked from developing countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and trapped into an abusive system of exploitation and overwork onboard vessels fishing illegally in Taiwanese waters and beyond,” says the EJF report.

A victim of human trafficking speaking at shelter in Taiwan told EJF, “I know that a fisherman does not know much, and that’s why they can treat us badly and pay small salaries. No one tried to help us.”

Now, standards agreed by SeaBOS member companies may offer some help to the men who slave their lives away at sea.

A new article in the U.S. scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) describes how researchers from Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University convened the seafood CEOs to address marine issues, including slavery aboard fishing boats.

The article illustrates how sustainability scientists can actively engage as change makers.

The authors, who also facilitated the formation of SeaBOS, believe that the major sustainability challenges now facing humanity require that scientists take on a larger and more active role and connect knowledge to action.

By showing how scientists can collaboratively develop solutions to major sustainability issues together with industry, the study presents a unique method, which potentially can be replicated in other sectors.

The PNAS study describes the co-production process that led the SeaBOS companies to commit to action, which culminated in a joint statement presented at the UN Ocean conference in New York in June.

“While substantial literature has focused on how science interacts with policy, relatively little is known about interactions between science and business. The strength of our study is to report in detail on such an interaction while putting it into the broader context of sustainability science”, says Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, PhD student at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, who has, together with Österblom, been instrumental in the establishment of the initiative.

Other companies that have joined the SeaBOS initiative are cleaning up their practices. Cargill Aqua Nutrition is committed to reducing dependency on forage fish through use of co-products from fisheries, including fish trimmings. Trimmings meals and oil provided 33 percent of total marine ingredients in 2016 – up from 32 percent in 2013 and 21 percent in 2010. Use of trimmings uses resources that would otherwise go to waste.

Cargill Aqua Nutrition is increasing efforts to source soy from responsible supply chains. In 2016, more than 73 percent of all soy products sourced were deforestation-free and certified by Pro Terra, a not-for-profit organization that advances and promotes sustainability at all levels of the feed and food production.  All of the soy material sourced for Norway and Scotland were ProTerra certified.

“Cargill Aqua Nutrition is a world leader in aquaculture feed and nutrition. To deliver on our promise on healthy seafood for future generations, we commit to sustainable growth of the global aquaculture industry by creating better operations in a better workplace with better supply chains,” said President of Cargill Aqua Nutrition Einar Wathne.

Carl Folke, co-author of the study and the scientific director at the SRC adds that as researchers there are several challenges when working so closely with high-level companies within a business industry:

“Sustainability science is a use-inspired approach, where scientists can both be embedded in, and learn from change processes,” said Folke. “Our ambition has been to be impartial knowledge brokers in this process and facilitate a new direction for ocean stewardship.”


Featured Image: Thai fishing vessel, December 2008 (Photo by SeaDave) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Abandoned Fishing Gear Wreaks Havoc on Marine Life

Fishing nets in Karpathos, Greece. By Miemo Penttinen, Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Fishing nets in Karpathos, Greece. By Miemo Penttinen, Creative Commons license via Flickr.













Guest Contribution, GoGreen August 16, 2017

Since humans began casting their nets out to sea, fishing gear has been abandoned in the world’s oceans, either as forgotten equipment or left as trash. It is also common for gear to get lost or torn away from fishing boats. As a result, a phenomenon called ‘ghostfishing’ has wreaked havoc throughout much of the world’s oceans. What people are unaware of is that these abandoned fishing nets and traps ensnare marine life and cause them to drown or starve to death.

‘Ghost gear’ can come in many forms, anything from floating nets, lines or pots intended to catch crab, lobster or shrimp. In more technical terms, it’s known as Abandoned, Lost, or Discarded Fishing Gear (ALDFG). Unfortunately, ALDFG is left in the sea and has the ability to capture fish, turtles, whales, sharks, rays, invertebrates, and even birds. Marine life often can’t escape and creatures live out the rest of their dying days in gear that’s recklessly left behind by humans. Hundreds of marine animals die daily from ghostfishing. According to the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative, ALDFG kill over half a million sea creatures each year in Puget Sound alone.

Harmful Effects of Ghost Gear

Nets stay afloat and move around the ocean, capturing all creatures in its path. From the weight of the catch, the net eventually sinks and shakes out some of the organisms, and then the net is light enough again to move upward. This cycle repeats itself and the net continues to trap the marine life that gets in its way. Lines and nets can also get caught on rocks, reefs or shipwrecks, which is again problematic because marine creatures can get trapped and be maimed, drown, or starve to death. Pot traps unfortunately catch more than just crab, lobster and shrimp. Many bottom dweller creatures make their way into these traps and never find a way out.

According to Earth Island, fifty or sixty years ago, nets were more commonly made out of biodegradable materials such as hemp or cotton. These materials break down more quickly than plastic-based nets that can remain in the ocean for up to 600 years. Today it is more common to find nets and fishing gear made out of synthetic, degrade-resistant materials such as nylon. ALDFG plastics are also harmful to the oceans because they break down into smaller plastic particles and are ingested by marine life. Polyurethane chemicals from ALDFG also end up leaching into the water.

The Fight Against Ghostfishing

As the fishing industry has grown throughout the centuries, more and more fishing gear has been lost, abandoned or thrown away at sea. Ghostfishing is now considered a global problem. The report ‘Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear‘ issued by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 640,000 tons of ALDFG are spread out across the world’s oceans. This makes up about 10 percent of the global oceanic litter. But now that the problem of ghostfishing is more widely known, there are more efforts to help address it.

One of the biggest impediments to dealing with ALDFG is that most fishing takes place in international waters. Implementing international regulations is not an easy endeavor and as a result, marine ecosystems continue to suffer. But there is work being done to put a price tag on the marine creatures that die from ALDFG. The California SeaDoc Initiative has found that, in one year one abandoned net can kill about $20,000 worth of Dungeness crabs. If some folks are not convinced by the environmental impacts of ghostfishing, perhaps they’ll change their mind when they start to see how it affects the economy of the seafood industry.

There is also a push for shoreline collection facilities or programs that take old or broken nets. Instead of throwing these nets out to sea as an ‘easy way’ to get rid of them, commercial and recreational fishers can take in their old or broken nets and have them recycled or repurposed. One initiative that tries to prevent gear from being thrown overboard is the Fishing for Energy program. They provide gear removal services at various ports throughout the United States and sort the gear into recyclable and non-recyclable materials. Any material that can’t be recycled gets converted into energy by Covanta Energy. Old fishing gear is also being repurposed by Net-Works, a European company that turns ALDFG into carpet tiles.

There are also initiatives that help clean up the mess that’s already been made. Ghost Fishing is an organization that started out de-littering shipwrecks for aesthetics near the Netherlands, but soon they discovered the importance of removing abandoned fishing gear to help save the marine creatures they would find trapped in them. They’ve now created a Ghost Fishing Network to reach out to groups worldwide that are also tackling the issue of ALDFG in the seas.

At GoGreen, we are trying to raise the conscience of the community and the world about the importance of protecting our environment.


From Microbeads to Macrosystems: Oceans Under Stress


Mass coral bleaching at Pulau Semakau (East), with petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom, Singapore, July 23, 2016. (Photo by Ria Tan / Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BALI, Indonesia, March 2, 2017 ( News) – “On bathroom shelves around the world sit products that are destroying life in our oceans. Tiny pieces of plastic in our face scrubs and toothpastes, used to make products feel smooth, are washed away in drains to then fill the stomachs of marine animals who confuse it for food. No beauty product is worth destroying the world’s beautiful oceans, not to mention our own human well-being. There are alternatives!” says Indonesian-Australian model, actress and V-Jay Nadya Hutagalung.

Natural substances that biodegrade harmlessly and serve the same purpose as microbeads include jojoba beads, apricot kernels, ground nutshells and salt.

So let’s choose what we buy carefully and together, with the combined power of our voice and our wallets, we can urge beauty companies to end their use of microbeads,” Hutagalung told delegates to the fourth World Ocean Summit organized by the global media group “The Economist” in Bali February 22-24.

The glamorous media personality called on the cosmetics industry to stop adding exfoliating microplastics to their products and support the new #CleanSeas global campaign launched at the World Ocean Summit.

The #CleanSeas campaign is a project of UN Environment, headquartered in Nairobi, the United Nations’ highest environmental authority. UN Environment is a new name for the former UN Environment Programme, UNEP, a name that reflects its present status as a full-fledged agency of the United Nations.

Some countries have already banned products containing microbeads. Less than one millimeter wide, they are made from plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene and nylon.

President Barack Obama signed a bill outlawing microbeads from rinse-off cosmetics by mid-2017.

Products containing microbeads will be banned from sale in the UK by the end of 2017.

And in January, New Zealand Environment Minister Nick Smith announced that cosmetics containing microbeads will be banned as of July 2018.

Australia has not yet banned microbeads. But in February 2016 Environment Minister Greg Hunt said he would introduce a law to ban them if companies did not comply with a voluntary phase-out.

California passed a law banning soaps, facial and body scrubs, toothpaste and other products with plastic microbeads as of January 1, 2020.

Last year, the Canadian government officially listed microbeads as a toxic substance under the Environmental Protection Act, giving it the ability to ban the plastic beads.

Not waiting for these bans to take effect, many companies are already phasing them out. For instance, of the 14 companies in the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, five have already stopped using microbeads in their products and the rest will do so by 2018 or 2019.

The #CleanSeas campaign is targeting other plastics as well, setting its sights on eliminating single-use plastics such as straws, bags and packaging materials from the ocean within five years.

Ten countries have already joined the campaign with far-reaching pledges to turn the plastic tide.

The World Ocean Summit host country, Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago with 17,000 islands spread along more than 5,000 km, has committed to slash its marine litter by a full 70 percent by 2025.

Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags later this year, and Costa Rica announced plans to reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education.

Each year, more than eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans of the world, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism, and costing at least US$8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems.

Because plastics do not break down for many years, marine birds and animals eat the plastic material which accumulates in their tissues or perforates their digestive systems.

The UN campaign cites a 2016 report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation calculating that at the rate humans are dumping plastics into the oceans, by 2050 they will contain more plastic than fish and an estimated 99 percent of seabirds will have ingested plastic.

The #CleanSeas campaign is asking industry to recognize that it’s important to minimize plastic packaging and redesign their products. Consumers are urged to change their throwaway habits before irreversible damage is done to the oceans.

Through a wider-angle lens, the 2017 World Ocean Summit trained a critical eye on the vital issue of how to finance a sustainable ocean economy.

Sponsored by nonprofit organizations, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund, the summit aimed to consider how capital and the private sector can drive scalable, sustainable investment in the ocean.

A sustainable ocean economy could be a tremendous economic and investment opportunity, but a new, intensive phase of economic activity in the ocean is beginning, with climate change opening the Northwest Passage across the Arctic, warming and acidifying the oceans, bleaching coral reefs and causing sea levels to rise across the world.

The first global plan to save coral reefs from complete eradication caused by climate change, pollution and poor fishing practices was launched at the World Ocean Summit.

A project of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the initiative is called 50 Reefs. It brings together ocean, climate and marine scientists as well as conservationists from around the world to develop a list of the 50 most critical coral reefs to protect.

Michael Bloomberg, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, said, “When people think of climate change, they often think of extreme heat, severe storms, and raging wildfires. But some of the most disastrous effects of climate change are out of sight – on the ocean floor.

In fact,” said Bloomberg, “90 percent of coral reefs are expected to disappear by 2050 and saving the remaining coral reefs are critical. Without coral reefs, we could lose up to a quarter of the world’s marine biodiversity and hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people would lose their primary source of food and livelihoods. We must not allow this to happen.

Coral reefs worldwide have been estimated to have a conservative value of US$1 trillion, which generates at least $300-400 billion each year in terms of food and livelihoods from tourism, fisheries and medicines according to 2015 reports from WWF and the Smithsonian Institute.

This is an all hands on deck moment,” said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at Australia’s University of Queensland. “We are establishing the first global coalition of philanthropic, governmental and non-governmental organizations that will be aimed at slowing the decline of the world’s coral reefs, thereby preserving the livelihoods and culture of reef-dependent communities all over the world.

A panel of top marine scientists will oversee a process to prioritize reefs worldwide deploying a transparent “decision algorithm” developed at the Centre for Excellence in Environmental Decisions at the University of Queensland.

“What we already know about the future of our coral reefs is alarming: Without immediate action, we could lose this crucial ecosystem entirely within a few short decades,” said Paul G. Allen, philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder. “What we don’t yet know – the data gap leading scientists are seeking to fill through this initiative – are exactly where to focus critical conservation efforts to ensure the long-term survival of coral reef habitats.

The final 50 Reefs list and corresponding initiatives, to be announced later this year, is expected catalyze the global action and investment required to protect these reef systems for the future.

Caption:Tiny plastic beads, used in products such as facial cleansers and toothpaste, have started showing up in lakes and oceans around the world. Some U.S. states, including Minnesota, are working to ban products with microbeads.  (Photo by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of marine and environmental experts that can help your organization with ocean economy related projects. Contact us at info(@) and tell us what you need.

Quieting the Oceans


Mother humpback whale and calf near the island of Maui, Hawaii, July 17, 2015. (Photo courtesy NOAA) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

GLOUCESTER, Massachusetts, September 22, 2016 ( News) – Years of campaigning and courtroom battles by U.S. conservationists to limit the underwater noise that turns the oceans into hell for whales and dolphins are beginning to pay off.

On September 13, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its final Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap, which will guide the agency in better managing the effects of ocean noise on marine life during the next decade.

For many marine animals sound is a primary means of communication, orientation and navigation, finding food, avoiding predators, and mate selection.

While ocean noise can be caused by natural or human sources, it is humans who make the loudest sounds.

Explosives, oceanographic experiments, geophysical research, underwater construction, ship traffic, intense active sonars, low frequency military sonars, and air guns used in seismic surveys for oil development are among the most disruptive underwater noises.

Sustainability and resiliency of marine resources are important to NOAA,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. “We knew we had to have a vision for understanding and addressing how growing levels of ocean noise are affecting marine animals and their habitats in complex ways, and the roadmap provides that,” Sobeck said.

The roadmap will serve as a guide across NOAA, reviewing the status of the science on ocean noise and informing next steps.

NOAA is already taking on some of the roadmap’s recommendations, such as the recent launch of an underwater network of acoustic monitoring sensors.

The strategy suggests key roles for continuing partnerships and starting new ones with other federal agencies, industries, academic researchers and environmental advocates.

NOAA’s ocean noise strategy outlines several approaches that we can take with other federal and non-federal partners to reduce how noise affects the species and places we manage,” said W. Russell Callender, assistant NOAA administrator for its National Ocean Service. “It also showcases the importance that places like national marine sanctuaries have as sentinel sites in building our understanding of ocean noise impacts.”

NOAA received more than 85,000 public comments on the draft roadmap, and says it improved the final version based on this input.

NOAA has the scientific and technical expertise to assess what’s happening with ocean noise, help identify gaps in knowledge, and use various tools to alleviate or mitigate its effects,” said Richard Merrick, NOAA Fisheries chief scientist.

Our approach looks for creative and wide-ranging solutions to ensure the agency is effectively understanding and addressing how ocean noise affects the resources placed in our trust in the coming decade,” Merrick said.

The roadmap comes a month after NOAA Fisheries released its final acoustic guidance to better predict how human sounds underwater affect marine mammal hearing. The technical guidance is one example of a targeted action the roadmap recommends.

This summer, conservationists have been winning in the courtrooms, too.

On July 15, a ruling in the Natural Resources Defense Council‘s latest sonar case came down from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which presides over the western United States. “It was a major victory not only for marine mammals, but for the law that protects them,” wrote Michael Jasny, director of the NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land and Wildlife program.

The case concerns the Navy’s SURTASS LFA sonar system, a technology whose powerful, low-frequency signals can impact some marine mammal species – disrupting their ability to feed, breed, and communicate – over hundreds of miles,” Jasny wrote.

The case arose in response to a move by the U.S. Navy in 2012. The Navy, which takes the position that the oceans are already too quiet, asked the federal government for permission, under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, to harm endangered whales and other species across more than 70 percent of the world’s oceans.

The Navy argues that it needs the low frequency sonar because with the “advancement and use of quieting technologies in undersea platforms, threats faced by the U.S. Navy are becoming increasingly difficult to locate using the passive acoustic technologies that were effective during the Cold War.”

The range at which U.S. anti-submarine (ASW) assets are able to identify submarine threats is decreasing and at the same time improvements in torpedo design are extending the effective weapons range of those same threats,” the Navy explains on its website devoted to SURTASS LFA

SURTASS LFA sonar is providing a quantifiable improvement in the Navy’s undersea detection capability and improving the survivability of U.S. forces by extending the amount of time that naval forces have to react to potential threats,” the Navy states.

NRDC, the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, and other conservationists urged the government to take a precautionary approach, especially in the vast reaches of the ocean where little is known. Yet in the end, wrote Jasny, “the Service gave the Navy a virtual blank check, declining to protect habitat in most regions.

But the judges of the Ninth Circuit disagreed. They ruled that “systematic under protection of the marine mammals” could not be squared with the law.

This is not the first time a federal court has ruled against the Service on LFA sonar. In 2003 in a case known as NRDC v. Evans, and again in 2008’s NRDC v. Gutierrez, the courts found that the agency’s mitigation measures fell far short of what the law requires.

In September 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii entered an order settling two cases that challenged the U.S. Navy’s training and testing activities off the coasts of Southern California and Hawaii. The order secured long-sought protections for whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals by limiting Navy activities in vital habitat.

The settlement stems from the court’s earlier finding that the Navy’s activities illegally harm more than 60 separate populations of whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions.

The settlement manages the siting and timing of Navy activities, taking into account areas of vital importance to marine mammals, such as reproductive and feeding areas, migratory corridors, and areas in which small, resident populations are concentrated.

For the first time, the Navy agreed to put habitat for numerous marine mammal populations off-limits to mid-frequency sonar training and testing and the use of explosives.

If a whale or dolphin can’t hear, it can’t survive,” said David Henkin, an attorney for the public interest environmental law firm Earthjustice, who brought the initial challenge on behalf of Conservation Council for Hawaii, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Ocean Mammal Institute.

We challenged the Navy’s plan because it would have unnecessarily harmed whales, dolphins, and endangered marine mammals, with the Navy itself estimating that more than 2,000 animals would be killed or permanently injured,” said Henkin. “By agreeing to this settlement, the Navy acknowledges that it doesn’t need to train in every square inch of the ocean and that it can take reasonable steps to reduce the deadly toll of its activities.

The settlement will expire late in 2018 and will protect habitat for the most vulnerable marine mammal populations, including blue whales off the coast of Southern California, the world’s largest mammal, endangered after centuries of whaling, and small, resident whale and dolphin populations off Hawaii.

“This settlement proves what we’ve been saying all along,” said Marsha Green, president of Ocean Mammal Institute. “The Navy can meet its training and testing needs and, at the same time, provide significant protections to whales and dolphins by limiting the use of sonar and explosives in vital habitat.

Featured Image: Lieutenant Commander Joe Pica observes a curious humpback whale during recovery of an underwater acoustic current meter. Dominican Republic. February, 2006. (Photo courtesy NOAA) Public domain

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How ocean pollution affects humans [Infographic]

How ocean pollution affects humans How ocean pollution affects humans – Graphic by the team at


What you do on land can change the fate of what goes on off shore – and small changes in habits can have a large impact on improving our oceans.


Prevent rubbish and chemicals from flowing into the sea.  Keeping your property’s drains clear is your responsibility.


Household cleaning products, batteries, paint and pesticides can threaten water quality.


And opt for no packaging when possible. Carry a reusable water bottle, carry a cotton tote bag and recycle when possible.


Pesticides from gardens and lawns can wash into the ocean.


Overfishing, loss of habitat and market demand has decreased fish populations. When shopping or dining out, choose seafood that is sustainably sourced.


Take your rubbish with you after a day at the beach, and don’t remove rocks and coral.


Next time you’re off on a dive, cruise or kayak – be mindful of the marine life around you. Find some eco-friendly tours and packages that will respect the marine environment.


If you liked this you’ll also love our great infographic on 50 Amazing Facts About The Ocean



If nothing else, this gives us some perspective regarding our role on Earth. We are treating our oceans like our own private junkyard dumping thousands and thousands of tonnes waist straight in – and what will the result be? More dead ocean areas, no more marine life or what? What do you think will become of our oceans and what can we do to stop this?

TorbenLonneTorben Lonne @TorbenLonne

Chief-editor at @divein_news
Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand – and dived most of his life in most of the world.

Making Waves on World Oceans Day

Making Waves on World Oceans Day2
NEW YORK, New York
, June 14, 2016 ( News) – Musician Jack Johnson started the Wave for Change conservation social media campaign just in time for World Oceans Day this year. The Hawaii-based performer is asking people around the world to do something for the ocean – cut down on plastics, use more renewable energy and spread the word that the oceans need our help.

Doing a Wave for Change is easy and fun, says Johnson, himself a singer-songwriter, musician, actor, record producer – and a former professional surfer.

  1. Make a promise to the ocean such as shopping with reusable bags or giving up plastic straws.
  2. “Sign” your commitment by recording yourself saying your commitment and making a wave with your body – doing the wave!
  3. Share it with the world! Pass it on by sharing your video online with the tags #WaveForChange and #WorldOceansDay. Don’t forget to tag World Oceans Day on Facebook & Instagram, and @CelebrateOceans on Twitter.

Johnson celebrated World Oceans Day in New York on June 8, its annual date, at the United Nations with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with whom he made a strong connection two years ago in Samoa.

Back then, Ban came aboard the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokule’a and offered the gift of a message in a bottle, a handwritten note pledging to take action and protect the world’s oceans.

Along her sailing route since then, the Hokule’a crew has collected 40 pledges from around the world and ceremonially returned the bottle to the secretary-general in honor of World Oceans Day 2016.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center left, holds hands with Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson, who holds the hands of two Hawaiian dancers behind him at a welcoming event for the Hokule’a, a voyaging canoe of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, World Oceans Day New York City, June 8, 2016 (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / UN) Posted for media use.

The winners of the Third Annual World Oceans Day Photo Competition were announced at the ceremony. Among the five judges was native Hawaiian navigator Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet” is the theme of World Oceans Day this year, and there is no one on Earth who knows the effects of climate change to the oceans better than World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas of Finland.

 “We don’t need to be reminded of the challenges we currently face with a changing climate – the impacts on the ocean are clear: sea level rise, eroding  coastlines, warmer waters and ocean acidification,” said Taalas on World Oceans Day.

We are currently witnessing unprecedented coral bleaching, which may be endangering some of the world’s best-known coral reefs,” he said, among them the Great Barrier Reef along the east coast of Australia, the world’s longest reef.

The most pristine section of the big reef is experiencing the worst mass bleaching event in history, scientists have found during aerial and in-water surveys.

After surveying more than 500 coral reefs from Cairns, Australia to Papua New Guinea, scientists rank the overwhelming majority of reefs in the most severe bleaching category.

The powerful El Niño event and long-term global warming joined forces with potentially harmful effect on marine ecosystems. This may impact the livelihoods of millions of people,” said Taalas.

We now know that although the oceans are seemingly endless, their capacity to withstand human activities is limited, particularly as they also cope with the threats posed by climate change,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message.

 “Urgent action on a global scale is needed to alleviate the world’s oceans from the many pressures they face, and to protect them from future dangers that may tip them beyond the limits of their carrying capacity,” said the secretary-general.

Long overlooked in international negotiations about climate change, the role of oceans was taken into account for the first time at the 2015 UN climate change conference in Paris and is part of the Paris Climate Agreement, now signed by 175 countries.

Oceans are also specifically recognized in the framework of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted by the UN last fall.

 “To implement these agreements, multi-stakeholder partnership and collaboration are key,” advised Taalas.

Given the close inter-linkages between the ocean and climate, WMO works closely with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO on ocean and climate observations, ocean and atmospheric research, as well as forecasting and early warning systems for hazards like tsunamis and storm surges.

Taalas warned that there is ocean warming both at surface level and deeper down. He said the ocean is absorbing more than 90 percent of the excess heat from human activities and about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide.

And, the rate of sea level rise is increasing. From 1901-1990 it was 1.9 mm/year. It was 3.0 mm/year during the period 1990-2010; and from 1993-2016 the rate of sea level rise 3.3 mm/year.

Arctic sea ice is shrinking at a rate of 13.4 percent per decade relative to the 1981 to 2010 average.

 And finally, Since pre-industrial times, surface ocean waters have become nearly 30 percent more acid, Taalas warned.

WMO will therefore intensify its drive to improve multi-hazard early warning systems, provide science-based climate services for sustainable coastal planning, and the preservation of coastal ecosystems that act as natural barriers such as corals and mangroves.

 “For all of these reasons, WMO and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO need to stand together and continue close collaboration as leaders in the global community on these matters,” he said.

There are 11 young people from throughout the world on this year’s World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council . One of them is Caitlin Philipps, 16, of Melbourne, Australia, a sailor and school leader.

The ocean is my starting point,” says Philipps. “I come from a family of sailors and therefore salt water runs through my veins. It is my first home and the place where I feel free.

The ocean is the beating heart of the planet. It utterly destroys me that we as humans believe that the Earth is ours to corrupt and bleed dry when we share it with 8.7 million other species of plants and animals.” Philipps said. “The ocean is the most exploited system on the planet and that’s why I am here. It’s my starting point to change the world because as Emma Watson has said, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’ So, what better time.

Main Image: Musician Jack Johnson Kicks Off the #WaveforChange: World Oceans Day 2016 (Screengrab from video) Posted for media use

Featured Image : Exploring the ocean at sunrise on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, July 12, 2014 (Photo by Andrew Dai) Winner in MassAudubon’s 2014 Photo Contest in the 18 and under “People in Nature” Category. Creative commons license via Flickr    

World Running Out of Time to Sustainably Manage Oceans

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 18, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The greatest threat to the world’s oceans comes from human failure to deal quickly with the many problems that human activities have created in the marine environment, finds the first World Ocean Assessment written by a UN-convened group of experts.

“Human impacts on the sea are no longer minor in relation to the overall scale of the ocean. A coherent overall approach is needed,” according to the report, presented to the UN General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group on the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects, at a meeting from September 8 to 11.

“Many parts of the ocean have been seriously degraded,” the report states. “If the problems are not addressed, there is a major risk that they will combine to produce a destructive cycle of degradation in which the ocean can no longer provide many of the benefits that humans currently enjoy from it.”

The World Ocean Assessment does not include any analysis of policies. It is intended to support informed decision-making and contribute to managing human activities that affect the oceans and seas in a sustainable manner, under international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

 World Ocean Assessment’s Ten Themes:


  1. Climate change: Climate change means rises in sea level, higher levels of acidity in the ocean, the reduced mixing of ocean water and increasing deoxygenation.

“The ocean is acidifying rapidly and at an unprecedented rate in the Earth’s history. The impact of ocean acidification on marine species and food webs will affect major economic interests and could increasingly put food security at risk, particularly in regions especially dependent on seafood protein,” according to the assessment.

“The consensus is that increases in global temperature, in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and in the radiation from the sun that reaches the ocean have already had an impact on some aspects of the ocean and will produce further significant incremental changes over time,” the report states.

  1. Overexploitation of marine life: Harvesting of living marine resources has exceeded sustainable levels in many regions. And overexploitation has caused ecosystem changes such as the smothering of corals by algae caused by the overfishing of herbivorous fish in parts of the Caribbean.

Overfishing, pollution, loss of habitat and climate change are all putting pressure on fish reproduction with important implications for food security and biodiversity.

Women fish in shallow water in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Tanzania (Image credit: Matt Kieffer creative commons license via Flickr)


  1. Food security and food safety: Fish products are the major source of animal protein for a large fraction of the world’s population, but globally, the current mix of the global capture fisheries is near the ocean’s productive capacity, with catches on the order of 80 million tons a year.

Ending overfishing, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and rebuilding depleted resources could result in a potential increase of as much as 20 per cent in yield, according to the assessment, but rebuilding depleted stocks would be costly. In some areas, pollution and dead zones are also depressing the production of food from the sea.

  1. Biodiversity: The pressures on marine biodiversity are increasing, particularly near large population centers, in biodiversity hotspots, and in the open ocean, which has so far suffered limited impacts.
  1. Crowded Ocean Spaces: Conflicting demands for dedicated marine space arise from the expansion of longstanding ocean uses, such as fishing and shipping, and from newly developing uses, such as hydrocarbon extraction, mining and offshore generation of renewable energy. As yet there is no clear overarching management system or evaluation of their cumulative impacts on the ocean environment.
  1. Pollution: The burgeoning human population as well as industrial and agricultural production are increasing the emissions of harmful materials and excess nutrients into the ocean.

Sewage discharge levels often are beyond local carrying capacities and can harm human health; still, discharges of industrial effluents and emissions are growing.

Plastic marine debris from the poor management of waste streams on land and at sea means that fish get caught in “ghost” nets, seabirds and seals die from eating plastic bags. Plastic debris destroys the natural beauty of many ocean areas, affecting the livelihoods of local residents who work in the tourist industry. Less obviously, zooplankton and filter-feeding species suffer from the nanoparticles into which those plastics break down, with “serious effects all the way up the food web.”

HumpbackMorroBayHumpback whale breaches in Morro Bay in front of smokestacks at San Luis Obispo, California (Image credit Devra creative commons license via Flickr)


  1. Cumulative Impacts: The cumulative adverse impacts of activities that in the past seemed sustainable are resulting in major changes to some ecosystems and in a reduction in the services they provide. For instance, where biodiversity has been altered, the resilience of ecosystems to climate change is often reduced.
  1. Uneven Benefits: Differences in capacities to manage sewage, pollution and habitats create inequities between developed and developing countries. Gaps in capacity-building hinder less developed countries from taking advantage of what the ocean can offer them, and reduce their capability to address the ways they degrade the ocean.
  1. Coherent Marine Management: This requires taking into account the effects on ecosystems of each of the many pressures, what is being done in other sectors and the way that they interact. The ocean is a complex set of systems that are all interconnected, and a coherent management approach requires a wider range of knowledge about the ocean.
  1. Solutions Delayed are Solutions Denied: There are known practical measures to address many of the pressures on marine ecosystems that are degrading the ocean, causing social and economic problems. Delays in implementing known solutions, even if they are only partial and will leave more to be done, mean that “we are unnecessarily incurring those environmental, social and economic costs,” the assessment warns.

The World Ocean Assessment was born 2002, when the World Summit on Sustainable Development recommended that there be a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, and the UN General Assembly accepted that recommendation.

In December 2010, the General Assembly established a formal Group of Experts to produce the first World Ocean Assessment by 2014. A much larger pool of experts assists the Group of Experts in conducting the assessments and provides peer-review to ensure the high quality of the outputs.

The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations, acts as the secretariat for the World Ocean Assessment.

A Bureau of 15 UN Member States, representing the regional groups of the United Nations, oversees the entire process.

Find the basics behind the first World Ocean Assessment here.

Read a summary of the World Ocean Assessment here:

About the Author: Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990. Find ENS online at:

Featured image: Endangered Hawaiian monk seal entangled in marine debris (Image credit: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).