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Global overview

Progress in protecting the marine and coastal environment over the past 30 years has generally been confined to relatively few, mostly developed countries, and to relatively few environmental issues. Overall, coastal and marine environmental degradation not only continues but has intensified. The major threats to the oceans that were recognized in 1972 - marine pollution, the overexploitation of living marine resources and coastal habitat loss - still exist, despite national and international actions to address these problems.

There have, however, been significant changes in perspective, and new concerns have emerged. The exploitation of living marine resources and loss of habitats are now recognized as being at least as great a threat to ocean health as marine pollution. The perspectives of developing countries were embodied in the Founex Report on Development and Environment that was produced in preparation for the 1972 Stockholm Conference. Their response in 1972 was that degradation was a developedcountry problem; for them poverty, not pollution, was the problem (Brenton 1994, Caldwell 1996).

Marine and coastal degradation is caused by increasing pressure on both terrestrial and marine natural resources, and on the use of the oceans to deposit wastes. Population growth and increasing urbanization, industrialization and tourism in coastal areas are root causes of this increased pressure. In 1994, an estimated 37 per cent of the global population lived within 60 km of the coast - more people than inhabited the planet in 1950 (Cohen and others 1997). The effects of population are multiplied by both poverty and human consumption patterns.