By Michael Davis
The importance of the world’s oceans, and the challenges they face cannot be overstated. Oceans are home to the earth’s most diverse ecosystems, and are crucial to fighting climate change as they absorb 30% of the CO2 in the atmosphere. The total economic value of the world’s oceans is estimated at USD 2.5 trillion per year, with the livelihoods of 660 – 820 million people globally supported by the fisheries sector alone. Yet, despite this environmental and economic importance, ocean mismanagement is rife. The major fish stocks people consume are on the edge of collapse, as fish stocks are severely over-exploited. The world’s reefs are stressed, and mangroves – the lungs of the ocean – continue to be removed at destructive rates.
The impact of ocean degradation, and collapses in marine ecosystems will be most keenly felt in the global south. In Africa, fish accounts for 40% of protein intake across the continent, and the fishing industry generates livelihoods for an estimated 100 million people, many of whom already live below the poverty line. The fishing industries currently contribute USD 24 billion to African GDP – already quite a substantial sum, which could even be much higher if supply chains are improved. Poor management, rampant illegal fishing, and poor policing of coastal areas have drastic consequences on seafood production, with countries such as Ghana (one of the few where adequate data exists) experiencing up to 90% reduction in the amount of locally produced seafood.