Preserving the Seas

September 2, 2022 • Volume 32, Issue 29
Is a sustainable ocean economy realistic?
By Zarrín Caldwell


The world's oceans face many crises, largely caused by humans, including warming waters, alarming rates of pollution, overfishing and the loss of more than half of all living coral reefs. These risks are acute for coastal communities that depend on the seas for their livelihoods, but healthy oceans are also critical for the security of future generations, say environmental advocates and policymakers. Regulations to reverse the damage to marine areas and mitigate the effects of climate change remain hard to enforce given limited public resources, piecemeal governance and commercial entities motivated by profit. Some international institutions and policymakers support a “blue economy,” which aims to develop the oceans in a sustainable way to produce more food and clean energy to support the world's growing population. Others — including environmentalists and citizen groups — are skeptical, saying a blue economy is likely to degrade the marine environment even further. The oceans and their ecosystems are resilient, but can humanity leave them alone long enough to recover?

Photo of coral reefs in Namena Marine Reserve, Fiji, on September 28, 2010. (Getty Images/ullstein bild/Reinhard Dirscherl)
Coral reefs, such as this one in the Namena Marine Reserve in Fiji, teem with unique aquatic life that provides multiple benefits to humans and the environment. Climate change and pollution have killed more than half of the world's coral reefs. Some advocate a “blue economy” to develop the ocean in a sustainable way, but others are skeptical. (Getty Images/ullstein bild/Reinhard Dirscherl)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Environmental Protection
Sep. 02, 2022  Preserving the Seas
Jun. 17, 2022  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 17, 2021  Endangered Species
Nov. 06, 2020  Preventing Wildfires
Jul. 10, 2020  Circular Economy
Nov. 29, 2019  Climate Change and Health
Sep. 20, 2019  Extreme Weather
Dec. 07, 2018  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 02, 2016  Arctic Development
Apr. 22, 2016  Managing Western Lands
Jul. 18, 2014  Regulating Toxic Chemicals
Sep. 20, 2013  Future of the Arctic
Jun. 14, 2013  Climate Change
Nov. 06, 2012  Vanishing Biodiversity
Nov. 02, 2012  Managing Wildfires
Nov. 04, 2011  Managing Public Lands
Aug. 26, 2011  Gulf Coast Restoration
Jul. 2010  Plastic Pollution
Feb. 2010  Climate Change
Jan. 09, 2009  Confronting Warming
Dec. 05, 2008  Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Nov. 2008  Carbon Trading
Oct. 03, 2008  Protecting Wetlands
Feb. 29, 2008  Buying Green
Dec. 14, 2007  Future of Recycling
Nov. 30, 2007  Disappearing Species
Feb. 2007  Curbing Climate Change
Dec. 01, 2006  The New Environmentalism
Jan. 27, 2006  Climate Change
Oct. 25, 2002  Bush and the Environment
Oct. 05, 2001  Invasive Species
Nov. 05, 1999  Saving Open Spaces
Jun. 11, 1999  Saving the Rain Forests
May 21, 1999  Setting Environmental Priorities
Mar. 19, 1999  Partisan Politics
Oct. 16, 1998  National Forests
Jun. 19, 1998  Environmental Justice
Aug. 23, 1996  Cleaning Up Hazardous Wastes
Mar. 31, 1995  Environmental Movement at 25
Jun. 19, 1992  Lead Poisoning
May 15, 1992  Jobs Vs. Environment
Jan. 17, 1992  Oil Spills
Sep. 20, 1991  Saving the Forests
Apr. 26, 1991  Electromagnetic Fields: Are They Dangerous?
Sep. 08, 1989  Free Market Environmental Protection
Dec. 09, 1988  Setting Environmental Priorities
Jul. 29, 1988  Living with Hazardous Wastes
Dec. 20, 1985  Requiem for Rain Forests?
Aug. 17, 1984  Protecting the Wilderness
Jun. 15, 1984  Troubled Ocean Fisheries
Aug. 19, 1983  America's Disappearing Wetlands
Feb. 22, 1980  Noise Control
Nov. 16, 1979  Closing the Environmental Decade
Oct. 13, 1978  Toxic Substance Control
Feb. 27, 1976  Pollution Control: Costs and Benefits
Nov. 28, 1975  Forest Policy
May 30, 1975  Wilderness Preservation
Dec. 20, 1974  Environmental Policy
Nov. 14, 1973  Strip Mining
Dec. 01, 1971  Global Pollution
Jul. 21, 1971  Protection of the Countryside
Jan. 06, 1971  Pollution Technology
Jun. 19, 1968  Protection of the Environment
Oct. 30, 1963  Noise Suppression
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