US secretary of state John Kerry has called for a massive expansion of the world’s marine reserves, urging governments to work together to protect our oceans.
Kerry warned that overfishing, pollution and acidification linked to greenhouse gas emissions were threatening all marine life, and the billions of people who depend on it for life and livelihood. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates than one in five people worldwide rely on fish as their primary source of protein.
“This doesn’t know borders. It’s trans-boundary”, Kerry said in a video address to a conference hosted by the Economist and National Geographic in California on Tuesday.
“And every country on Earth has to do all it can to reduce emissions not just for the future of marine life but, frankly, for the future of all life.”
A report published last year suggested that oceans were acidifying at “unprecedented rates” because of manmade carbon dioxide emissions.
Researchers warn this could have a devastating impact on marine food chains, with coral reefs being destroyed faster than they can rebuild, and many molluscs, such as mussels and oysters, finding it difficult to grow and even survive.
Marine ecologists also argue that overfishing is the most severe threat to ocean ecosystems, with some species pushed to the brink of extinction.
“If we want to slow down the rate of acidification of our oceans, protect our coral reefs, and save species from extinction, we have to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and pursue cleaner sources of energy”, Kerry added.
“Today, less than 3% of the world’s oceans are part of a marine protected area or a marine reserve. Think of the progress we can make if just 10% of marine areas were protected. I think that is a goal we should set for ourselves.”
Kerry said the US State Department would hold a two-day summit in the summer to kickstart efforts working towards such targets.
A report published last year found that setting up 127 marine conservation zones around the UK provide an economic boost worth as much as £3.39 billion.