“The ocean is our biggest asset — and it’s in trouble.” This is the message Dr. Greg Stone, noted oceanographer, delivered last week to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, at a meeting attended by the CEOs of companies that drive the world’s economy such as DuPont, Mitsubishi, and The Coca-Cola Company, as well as 38 heads of state.
Dr. Stone, senior vice president and chief scientist for oceans at CI, discussed the health of the ocean in financial terms. “The global gross domestic product (GDP) is now more than $US 60 trillion. What’s not included in that figure are the ecosystem services of the ocean — we’re talking about food, oxygen and climate control. The replacement value of those services is estimated at $US 31 trillion.”
The ocean is perhaps our biggest asset, and we’re using up its resources at too fast a pace.
In the next 40 years, our global population will grow from 6.9 to 9.2 billion people with a fast-growing middle class. To provide for this increased demand for goods we will need twice as much energy, fresh water and food — and we will need it soon.
For example, seafood provides the main protein source for 1 in 4 people worldwide. Yet we’ve overfished 75 percent of the monitored marine seafood stocks.
Or consider climate control. The ocean absorbs about 25-30 percent of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, reducing the impact of climate change. Yet because of global greenhouse gas emissions, the ocean is increasingly acidic and less able to support life.
Facing a resource crisis like this, the average CEO would want an analysis — how soon will we run short and what can we do? Yet, for what is arguably our largest asset, a healthy ocean, there is currently no comprehensive way to measure this.
In February 2012, the Ocean Health Index — the first comprehensive assessment of ocean health — will be released. A team of noted scientists has already gathered vast quantities of data covering over 50 topics to evaluate the current status and the trend of the ocean’s ability to sustain and deliver critical services. Stone noted, “This will fill a critical gap in our strategic planning to secure our ocean resources.”
Debra Zeyen is the communications director for CI’s Global Marine division. To learn more about the economic value of marine conservation, read this interview with Greg Stone on treehugger.com.