The U.N. is nearing its decade-long goal of protecting 10 percent of the global ocean by 2020. But the world may fall short.
Scientists agree that marine protected areas, or MPAs, are essential for environmental health: they ensure fishers have healthy stocks by preventing resource depletion; they protect endangered species; they make ecosystems more resistant to climate change; and they maintain biodiversity.
At a U.N. conference held last June, the executive secretary for the Convention on Biological Diversity announced approximately 5.7 percentof the ocean was protected. But a new study published in Marine Policypaints a less optimistic picture.
As of early 2018, only two years away from the U.N. target, the world is not even halfway there, according to the study. (The assessment was supported in part by the National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seasproject.)
The scientists found that 5.7 percent figure also included regions that were in various stages of becoming marine protected areas (MPA). In some cases, the areas were simply being proposed. In others they were still under discussion and not fully approved.
“Calling an area that allows commercial fishing ‘protected’ is like calling a logging concession a ‘protected forest.’ It’s worse than an euphemism; it’s a lie,” says Enric Sala, study author and National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence who leads the Pristine Seas project.
In their own assessment, researchers found only 3.6 of the ocean was in an implemented marine protected area and only two percent of the ocean was in an MPA that was entirely restricted access.
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Written by Sarah Gibbens