David Miliband: Ocean indicators are all flashing red

The world’s oceans are on the verge of collapse, suffering from poor health and mismanagement, according to former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Speaking at the launch of the Global Ocean Commission (GOC), of which he will be a co-chair, Miliband said there were grave environmental, economic and governance challenges facing the oceans.

The Commission will address biodiversity loss and overfishing as well as tackling a management vacuum on the high seas, an area 200 miles beyond national coasts.

“This commission is concerned by the severe loss of habitat and biodiversity. All the indicators are flashing red,” said Miliband.

The GOC will seek to find practical policies to protect the ocean’s environmental and economic value. (Source: Flickr/NOAA)

“High seas are the next frontier in development policy,” said Miliband who says there are implications for global security, biodiversity, food security

Miliband will be joined as co-chair by Jose Maria Figueres, former President of Costa Rica and South African Minister Trevor Manuel.

Good governance of the ocean will be critical to development, said Miliband who warned that the failure of the UN Convention on the High Seas could bring multilateralism into disrepute.

“We know that the economics of high seas exploitation are no longer sustainable.The World Bank estimated a $50bn annual cost for current practices across the seas, that was five years ago. That costs the earth and its poorest people dearly,” he said, adding that the world’s poorest rely on fish for 50% of their protein intake.

The GOC will spend three years assessing the current state of the oceans before making recommendations that bring the economics of their protection up to date with the environmental and developmental challenges of the 21st century.

Climate change

The oceans also have an important role to play as a carbon sink and in transferring heat around the earth’s surface.

Rising ocean temperatures can lead to extreme storms, while melting freshwater stores at the poles could interfere with ocean circulation. Both changes have knock-on effects for weather patterns and local marine life.

Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations also lead to more acidic waters with some of the carbon dioxide reacting with water to form carbonic acid.

This can have grave consequences on ecosystems, particularly coral reefs and life that relies on the reefs.

RTCC Video: UNESCO’s Wendy Watson-Wright on the dangers of acidification

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