"Urgent action" is needed if the world wants to maintain its ocean economy, according to a new report by the WWF.
The world's oceans are worth at least $24 trillion in services such as fishing, tourism, shipping and carbon sequestration. In fact, if the oceans were a country, they would be the world's seventh economy in terms of GDP.
The report, published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), states that more than two thirds of these goods and services mentioned rely heavily on the oceans remaining healthy.
According to the report:
The evidence is clear: the ocean is a major contributor to the global economy, but its asset base is being rapidly eroded. To restore the ocean’s productive capacity before it is too late, the world must take urgent action.
Reviving the Ocean Economy, WWF report
Currently, the oceans are being heavily degraded by pollution, overfishing, tourism and climate change.
One of the most striking examples of this is the loss of the ocean's coral reefs:
Recent studies indicate that at least 50 per cent of reef-building corals on tropical reefs in south-east Asia, Australia, the western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Caribbean have disappeared from reefs over the past 30 years.
While declining water quality and over-exploitation represent serious short-term threats to coral reefs, ocean warming from climate change and ocean acidification are widely appreciated as two of the greatest threats to reefs.