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Commercial Ocean TrawlerMultiple man-made risk factors have pushed the ocean’s ecosystem to a dangerous precipice, according to the 2014 Global Ocean Commission (GOC) report.

The GOC, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, has put together a “rescue package” for the world’s oceans, analyzing the current dangers that plague the high seas and outlining recovery strategies for world governments.

The “high seas” refer to waters that exist outside countries’ territorial claims. They comprise nearly half the globe and provide approximately $16 billion in total revenue from the 10 million tons of fish caught every year. They are essential sources of seafood for the planet, but overfishing and pollution have compromised 87 percent of the fish species that live there.

At present, 18 countries are encouraging this exploitation by offering billions in government subsidies to high seas fishermen. The United States, for instance, offers $137 million for $368 million worth of fish. With this incentive, fish populations are dwindling fast, with some experts predicting the market for seafood will be choked of its supply by 2050.

Overfishing is also cutting down on biodiversity in the ocean, a necessary component for a healthy food chain. But overfishing is only one part of the problem. Habitat encroachment, climate change and ocean acidification are all endangering the ocean ecosystem. Plastic pollution also becomes a larger problem every year, toxifying creatures that mistakenly consume it or destroying them outright.

The GOC has encouraged coastal countries to set a five-year plan to mitigate these issues. In the U.S., President Barack Obama has proposed to expand the Pacific marine sanctuary, but such a measure will do little on its own. These sanctuaries are often poorly guarded as it is.

Speaking to Reuters, David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary and a co-chair of the GOC, has declared the marine outlook grim. “The oceans are a failed state,” he said in a telephone interview. “A previously virgin area has been turned into a plundered part of the planet.”

You can read the full report here.

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  1. […] have always been a part of the commercial fishing industry, but overfishing and other man-made risk factors have led some to rethink the old methods of doing […]

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