Study: Human Impacts on Oceans Could Double, Again

unhealthy coral reef courtesy of University of California
unhealthy coral reef courtesy of University of Califonia

Published Aug 17, 2019 8:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

Over the last decade, human impacts on the world’s oceans have, on average, nearly doubled and could double again in the next decade without adequate action. That’s according to a new study by researchers from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at University of California (UC) Santa Barbara.

The study assessed, for the first time, where the combined impacts that humans are having on oceans are changing and how fast. These impacts include issues such as nutrient pollution, climate change, shipping and over-fishing. The researchers found that in nearly 60 percent of the ocean, the cumulative impacts are increasing significantly and, in many places, at a pace that appears to be accelerating.

The study projected the impacts a decade into the future, based on the rate of change in the recent past, finding that they could double again if the pace of change continues unchecked.

Regions of particular concern include Australia, Western Africa, the Eastern Caribbean islands and the Middle East, among others. Coastal habitats such as mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses are among the hardest-hit ecosystems.

The authors did find areas where impacts have declined, such as the seas of South Korea, Japan, the U.K. and Denmark, all of which have seen significant decreases in commercial fishing and pollution.

The authors say that this suggests that policies and other actions to improve ocean conditions are making a difference, although the analysis does not attribute specific actions to those declines.