Vast bounty at risk from under protected oceans

Posted on
27 May 2008
Bonn, May 26, 2008 - Oceans offer a vast bounty to mankind – in food, climate and coastal protection, medicine and new technologies – a new WWF Germany study of the ocean's value has found, but are at risk due to very low levels of protection from over-exploitation.

WWF is urging the 190 Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, now meeting in Bonn, Germany, to conserve the wealth of our oceans.

“Countries have committed themselves to establishing networks of Marine Protected Areas by 2012 under the Convention on Biological Diversity, but only 0.5 per cent of the oceans currently protected is a poor start towards that very essential goal”, said Christian Neumann, Conservation Officer for WWF International Centre for Marine Conservation and co-author of the study.

“Governments should be doubling their efforts in Bonn to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity” said Rolf Hogan, CBD Manager at WWF International.

The value of our oceans shows the economic value of a wide range of goods and services from the oceans. Scientists have put their overall value at some $US 21 trillion annually, a dramatic contrast with the 0.5 per cent of ocean area currently covered by marine protected areas.

“Not only do we have the moral obligation to secure the biological diversity of the seas, mankind is also dependent on intact marine ecosystems,” said Neumann. “They are a cornerstone of our economic wellbeing. Protecting them is much cheaper than loosing them.“

The wealth of the seas is particularly apparent in medicine, as many new compounds from pharmaceutical research activities originate from the oceans. Sponges and other invertebrates have emerged as a particularly fruitful source of new antibiotics and pharmaceutically active substances to fight cancer and Alzheimer’s. Hotspot areas of high biodiversity are valued at 6000 US Dollars per hectare for medicinal aspects alone.

“We just don’t know which potential is lying in the seas, waiting to be discovered by medicine and technology. The economic value is enormous, while very difficult to assess. At the same time, we’re at risk of loosing numerous species before we have the chance to unveil their potential,” Neumann said.

Global fisheries were estimated at a first-sale value of $US 85 billion in 2004, with some 40 million workers, but no only employment, the food of many more millions is at threat from over-exploitation and pollution.

“If we continue overfishing at current levels, fish stocks will collapse by the middle of the century. And that means millions of jobs lost,” Neumann warns.

Coastal protection is among the most important services of marine life, of which intact protected coral reefs contribute to a significant proportion. This service has been valued at $US 9 billion each year.

The oceans are binding carbon and therefore contribute to stabilising the planet’s climate. With no biological activity in the oceans, the carbon concentration in the atmosphere would be 50 per cent higher. This service is valued at $US 0.66 to $US 13.5 trillion per annum.

The report shows there is more money to be earned by protecting the seas than by destroying them. In Bunaken National Park in Sulawesi, Indonesia, for example, employees in the parks’ important tourism sector earn 144 US $ a month compared to fishermen on only US$44. A comparison of 18 case studies in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Ocean shows that turtle watching generated three times more income than a consumptive use of the endangered animals

Christian Neumann, Marine Conservation Officer, International WWF-Centre for Marine Conservation, Hamburg, Germany Tel. +49 162-2914469
Ralph Kampwirth, Press Officer WWF Germany, Tel. +49 162-2914473

Notes for editors
The Value of our Oceans: The Economic Benefits of Marine Biodiversity and Healthy Ecosystems was released at 11am on 26 May 2008 at the 9th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Bonn, Germany. The report can be downloaded at


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