Scientists Say Oceans Can Be Restored by 2050, With Big Commitments to Conservation

A new study published in the journal Nature has revealed that oceans are remarkably resilient and could be restored to health by 2050 if “major pressures—including climate change—are mitigated.” As the BBC reported, the researchers identified nine components that are key to rebuilding the oceans: salt marshes, mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs, kelp, oyster reefs, fisheries, megafauna and the deep ocean.

But the study authors noted that the window of opportunity for humans to take necessary action to meet these goals is quickly closing. 

What Needs to Be Done: As the Guardian explained, the measures needed to restore oceans by 2050, include

  • protecting large swathes of ocean,
  • sustainable fishing
  • and pollution controls,

Overall, the study authors issued 45 recommendations.

And while the cost of these efforts would be roughly $10-20 billion a year, the investments would bring benefits 10 times as high.

The Study: The authors of the study were an international group of authors that reviewed hundreds of case studies on revitalized marine ecosystems, including:

  • A rebound of fish stocks during both world wars due to a decrease in fishing.
  • Coral reefs that recovered from nuclear tests in the South Pacific.
  • Improved conditions in the Black and Adriatic seas after the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a reduction in fertilizer use.
  • A major decrease in trawling in the Scotian Shelf led to the recovery of halibut and barndoor skate, two species of fish that had been approaching extinction.
  • Even Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific which was the site of at least two Hiroshima-size atomic tests, as well as the detonation of the world’s first hydrogen bomb, has recovered to become a premier diving spot.

Study co-author Prof Callum Roberts from the University of York explained that “Science gives us reason to be optimistic about the future of our oceans, but we are not currently doing enough in the UK or globally.”

Why This Matters: This study shows that ocean conservation works. When we protect our ecosystems they can recover but we have to make the commitment to do so. This year was supposed to be a “super year” for conservation after December’s Blue COP, but it’s likely that the COVID-19 pandemic could disrupt many of the crucial meetings that were set to take place (just yesterday COP26 was moved to 2021). Thus it will be incumbent upon us here in the United States to ensure that conservation stays on our national agenda–as we begin hashing out the next rounds of the stimulus and as the 2020 election progresses. 

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