A Framework for Global Ocean Conservation

Ocean Conservation Enric Sala

A recent study spearheaded by WW0 enlistee Dr. Enric Sala offers a new and robust framework for global ocean conservation that could have major worldwide benefits. The study recommends that nations collaborate to identify and protect high-priority areas of the ocean, as such a strategy would maximize the efficiency of marine protections. The framework would reap what the study refers to as "triple-benefits," meaning it would protect biodiversity, mitigate climate change by securing carbon stocks, and improve food security by increasing the yield of fisheries.

This study indicates that, when used efficiently, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have major potential -- but in order to maximize the benefits of ocean conservation, global collaboration and "a greater level of investment in MPAs than we have at present, regardless of the preferences of the stakeholders involved."

NOAA Sanctuaries: International Partnership on Marine Protected Areas, Biodiversity, and Climate Change, June 2, 2021.

Marine Conservation Institute: Marine Protection Atlas, 2020.

Why This Matters

Marine protection is essential given that the oceans are perhaps our biggest resource, absorbing over a quarter of carbon emissions and their potential to provide a continuous food supply. As of now, less than 3% of the world's oceans are designated as fully protected MPAs. The other 97% still permits high-emitting, extractive human activities such as bottom trawling -- a practice used by fisheries that disturbs carbon stores in marine sediment which according to the study: "is likely to increase ocean acidification, reduce buffering capacity of the ocean and potentially add to the build-up of atmospheric CO2." Scientifically and economically, global neglect for our oceans is not sustainable.

Biodiversity protection is an international issue -- and with the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) on the horizon, ocean conservation will certainly find a place at the center of the conversation.

UNEP: Enric Sala Address to the Financial Community, October 20, 2020.

Conservation Trifecta

The study backs up the consensus that biodiversity, climate mitigation, and food security are clearcut benefits of ocean conservation. Two weeks ago the G7 Environment Ministers made a commitment on both national and international levels to "conserve or protect" 30% of the world's land and ocean by 2030. When it comes to taking effective, actionable steps toward these commitments, Sala's framework has the potential to inform decision-makers across the globe.

Nature-based solutions are critical to addressing the climate crisis. During a WW0 IG Live with Special Envoy John Kerry last year, Dr. Sala stated this concept in simple terms:

Everything humanity worries about, everything we count on, is built upon a healthy natural world. A degraded environment is a hotbed of all the problems affecting humanity … we have already seen the consequences of a region without water and food: riots, instability, collapse of governments, and massive migration to wealthier countries.

National Geographic Society: The Campaign For Nature - A New Vision for Nature, November 4, 2020.

National Geographic: The Nature of Nature, August 24, 2020.

WW0 IG Live: John Kerry and Enric Sala | The Nature of Nature: Why We Need The Wild, Sep 30, 2020.