Written by Nereus Research Associate Ryan Swanson,

Nereus research fellow Harriet Harden-Davies (University of Wollongong/ANCORS) and Rashid Sumaila (UBC) are co-authors on a new paper published in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. In the paper, the authors establish eight urgent and ambitious measures needed to stave off the ocean’s current deterioration, and warn of the impacts (some irreversible) due to inaction or delay. They urge governments and decision-makers to take immediate action due the ocean becoming increasingly acidic, de-oxygenating in growing regions, and sea surfaces warming to unprecedented modern temperatures because of anthropogenic global warming – of particular concern to the authors and their highest priority. In order to curb these adverse impacts and restore ocean health, the authors propose the following measures:

  1. Highest Priority – Create policies that rigorously address global warming by limiting the increase in sea surface temperature by 1.5°C by 2100, as warming is the key driver of ocean change.
  2. Secure a robust and comprehensive High Seas Treaty (with a Conference of the Parties and Scientific Committee).
  3. Enforce existing Marine Protected Area (MPA) standards (especially fully protected MPAs) and extend them to 30% of the ocean to include all habitats and the high seas. Ensure effective ocean management to prevent significant adverse effects for 100% of the ocean.
  4. Perform a precautionary pause on deep seabed mining until there’s sufficient knowledge and understanding of it for effective management.
  5. End overfishing, destructive fishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
  6. Radically reduce marine water pollution.
  7. Provide a mechanism to finance ocean management and protection.
  8. Scale up scientific ocean research and increase ocean data transparency and accessibility.

With approximately 10 years to act and implement these changes, the authors emphasize the time to act is now. This would coincide with 2020, a year that sees the Paris Climate Agreement coming into force, negotiations for the UN Treaty on biodiversity protection beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) being completed, and end targets being reached for ocean-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The authors state that implementing these eight measure simultaneously will “build resilience to climate change, help sustain fisheries productivity…protect coasts (e.g. via soft-engineering/habitat-based approaches), promote mitigation (e.g. carbon storage) and enable improved adaptation to rapid global change.”

The above summary was taken from the reference below, and you can read the article and eight measures in full here.


Laffoley, D., Baxter, J.M., Amon, D.J., Currie, D.E.J., Downs, C.A., Hall-Spencer, J.M., Harden-Davies, H., Page, R., Reid, C.P., Roberts, C.M., Rogers, A., Thiele, T., Sheppard, C.R.C., Sumaila, R.U., & Woodall (2019). Eight urgent, fundamental and simultaneous steps needed to restore ocean health, and the consequences for humanity and the planet of inaction or delay. Aquatic Conserv: Mar Freshw Ecosyst. 2019;1-15. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.3182 link

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