What's the Problem?
Key Factors in the Ocean's Decline
Marine and coastal ecosystems are declining worldwide. Five major factors are driving this decline:
- Development. The burgeoning number of people living along coastlines and their need for housing, food, energy, and income create high demands and impacts on marine ecosystems. More than a third of the world’s human population lives in coastal areas, and that number is growing (UNEP 1999).
- Pollution. Human activities in freshwater and on land—even far inland—affect the ocean. Watersheds link land to sea, and the many outcomes of land and river management decisions accumulate downstream in estuaries and oceans. Pollution also occurs at the coast and in the ocean from such sources as sewage outfalls and oil drilling.
- Overfishing. People rely on the ocean for food and many other resources, but these resources are not limitless. According to the FAO and World Bank, approximately 75 percent of fish stocks are fully exploited, and either overexploited, depleted, or recovering.
- Climate change. Warmer temperatures, sea-level rise, ocean acidification and an increase in storm damage pose major threats to the ecosystem services provided by the ocean.
- Fractured governance. Governance for the marine environment is divided among many agencies that typically focus on single sectors or objectives such as water quality, fisheries, or biodiversity conservation.
Reversing the Decline
Ecosystem-based management (EBM) and marine spatial planning (MSP) are frameworks for addressing these issues and balancing multiple management objectives. Multiple objective planning and interactive decision support systems are used to implement EBM and MSP frameworks. Case studies demonstrate the implementation of EBM and MSP for the ocean and coast.
Traditional, New, and Expanding Uses of the Ocean and Coast
The ocean and coast support a rapidly growing number and intensity of human uses. These changes are increasing the complexity of ocean management and making it essential to develop new management approaches.
- Aquaculture (fish, shellfish, and seaweed farming)
- Commerce and transportation (e.g. cargo and cruise ships, tankers, and ferries)
- Commercial fishing
- Environmental/conservation (e.g., marine sanctuaries, reserves, national parks, and wildlife refuges)
- Maritime heritage and archeology
- Mining (e.g., sand and gravel)
- Oil and gas exploration and development
- Ports and harbors
- Recreational fishing
- Renewable energy (e.g., wind, wave, tidal, current, and thermal)
- Other recreation (e.g., boating, beach access, swimming, nature and whale watching, and diving)
- Scientific research and exploration
- Security, emergency response, and military readiness activities
- Traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering
Source: Interim Framework for Effective Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (U.S. Ocean Policy Task Force)