The oil and gas sector is the largest ocean industry. It’s responsible for about one third of the value of the ocean economy. Sand and gravel, destined for the construction industry, are the most mined minerals in the ocean. And during the past 50 years, approximately 16,000 desalination plants have popped up around the world to help supply people with an increasingly scarce commodity: freshwater.
As a result of these and other human pressures, the world’s oceans have suffered a lot over time. But according to a comprehensive new analysis on the state of the ocean, human pressure on the world’s oceans, driven by a combination of technological progress and declining land-based resources, sharply accelerated at the start of the 21st century. Scientists have dubbed this dramatic increase, which shows no signs of slowing down, the “Blue Acceleration.”
A research team from Stockholm University analyzed 50 years of data from aquaculture, bioprospecting, shipping, drilling, deep-sea mining, and more. Their findings were recently published in the journal One Earth.
While claiming ocean resources and space is not new, lead author Jean-Baptiste Jouffray from the Stockholm Resilience Centre says “the extent, intensity, and diversity of today’s aspirations are unprecedented.”
The researchers also highlight how not all human impacts on the ocean are negative. For example, offshore wind farm technology has reached commercial viability allowing the world to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
But how can the Blue Acceleration be slowed? Since only a handful of multinational companies dominate sectors like the seafood industry, oil and gas exploitation, and bioprospecting, one idea is to have banks and other investors adopt more stringent sustainability criteria for making ocean investments.
Photo, posted October 29, 2008, courtesy of Silke Baron via Flickr.