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Nagoya 2010: Rising threats to marine biodiversity
18/ 10/ 2010

Nagoya 2010: Rising threats to marine biodiversityUNEP Regional Sea report Outlines Outlook for Action

Nagoya/Japan, 19 October 2010-The environmental and economic health of the World Seas-present and future-is outlined today in a report that underlines growing concern from pressures such as pollution, over-fishing and climate change.

The report, the Marine Biodiversity Assessment and Outlook: Global Synthesis by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) predicts that by 2050 productivity will have decreased in nearly all areas and with it fish catches. Worldwide fisheries will be heavily dominated by smaller species lower down the food chain.

Meanwhile climate change, if unchecked, could see surface sea temperatures rise by 2100 with important implications for coral reefs and other temperature-sensitive marine organisms.

Other predicted changes include a continued and widespread increase in nitrogen levels.
This is linked with discharges of wastewaters and agricultural run off from the land and, to an extent, emissions from vehicles and shipping.

Nitrogen can trigger algal blooms which in turn can poison fish and other marine creatures as well as contribute to the development of so called 'dead zones'-areas of sea with low oxygen concentrations. These areas have increased since the mid-1960s and now cover an estimated 246,000 km2.

The report also flags concerns over the rise in marine invasive species, transported to regions from elsewhere often in ballast water of ships or attached to its hull. Furthermore, it highlights that the cumulative impacts of all of these factors will have serious consequences in the rise of extinctions of native marine species across all regions.

The continuing decline in marine biodiversity will compromise the resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems to the impacts of climate change, as well as their ability to mitigate the effects of climate change, says the report released alongside individual regional seas reports at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan.

Why will extinctions happen?
Other areas of concern are linked with the fate of shell-building marine organisms, such as corals and copepods at the base of the food chain, as a result of rising concentrations of C02-so-called acidification.

Such organisms need minerals like aragonite to make their calcium skeletons. There is already evidence that concentrations of aragonite is falling across the regions as atmospheric C02 concentrations increase and are absorbed by the oceans-a trend that is set to continue and at ever lower depths unless global greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "Decoupling growth from rising levels of pollution is the number one challenge facing this generation-this is nowhere more starkly spotlighted than in the current and future health of the world's sea and oceans."

"Multi-trillion dollar services, including fisheries, climate-control and ones underpinning industries such as tourism are at risk if impacts on the marine environment continue unchecked and unabated. Governments are rising to the challenge through actions under the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans. This global report, based on 18 regional reports, underlines that ambition and actions now need to match the scale and the urgency of the challenge," he said.

Way Forward
The Global Synthesis report forms a baseline for understanding the main drivers of change and management responses relating to marine biodiversity.

Given that the nature and dynamics of oceans are transboundary, actions must be taken by all regions. While there are good regional examples, the report identified that management performance in many areas is generally insufficient and inadequately coordinated to address the growing problems of marine biodiversity decline and ecosystem change.

Moving forward, the preparation of National Programmes of Action (NPAs) for protecting the marine environment from land-based activities will be key in the years to come for each country. Already a number of countries have adopted NPAs or equivalent instruments.

For instance, in 2007 Japan enacted an equivalent of the NPA: the Basic Act on Ocean Policy, and established a legal system that regulates land-based activities in order to protect the marine environment.

However, further actions must include cross sectoral approaches such as ecosystem-based management to address activities and impacts affecting marine ecosystems, given that the combination of pressures from increasing human uses and the expected effects of rising temperatures and acidification of sea water promises an unwelcoming outlook for marine biodiversity and human activities that depend upon it.

Regionally, countries are working together to find solutions and adopting international provisions of Conventions and Protocols. For example, the protocols of the Regional Seas Conventions and Actions provide useful policy platforms for countries to collaborate towards meeting targeted goals to manage their shared marine environment.

Similarly, in many parts of the world, countries have adopted the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments: one important step towards cutting introductions of marine invasive species.

Currently, the total number of contracting parties to the Convention is 27, signaling keen interest to turn the Ballast Water Convention into national law.

The challenge is underlined in the report with shipping figures. Growth in total shipping traffic reflect regional variations, however, the global annual average growth of shipping traffic is between 9% - 10% with faster growth of bulk cargoes on some routes which pose the most threat to introducing invasive species.

Extending Marine Protected Areas (MPA) worldwide has so far reached 1.17% of global ocean surface, or 4.32% of continental shelf areas. However, current levels fall far short of the target of 10% of the marine environment to be included as Protected Areas set by the 7th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2004.

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are being established as primary biodiversity management measures in all regions. Well managed marine protected areas can, for example, improve spawning rates and fish stocks.

The series provide a snapshot of the situation in 2010. Their preparation has revealed major differences in data availability, analytical protocols and in preparedness and approaches for the management of marine biodiversity, natural resources and ecosystem services. They stand as a baseline for future assessments as part of the Regular Process for the Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment (GRAME).

Notes to Editors
The Marine Biodiversity Assessment and Outlook Series report for UNEP is available on

The series provide many lessons and insights and a basis for a consistent set of indicators for Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans to monitor the impact of global and regional measures on protecting and managing marine biodiversity.

About UNEP's Regional Seas Programme
The Regional Seas Programme, launched in 1974 in the wake of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, is one of UNEP's most significant achievements in the past 30 years.
The Regional Seas Programme aims to address the accelerating degradation of the world's oceans and coastal areas through the sustainable management and use of the marine and coastal environment and by engaging neighbouring countries in comprehensive and specific actions to protect their shared marine environment. It has accomplished this by stimulating the creation of the Regional Seas Programmes' prescriptions for sound environmental management to be coordinated and implemented by countries sharing a common body of water.
Today, more than 140 countries are participating in the13 Regional Seas Programmes. Six of these Programmes are directly administered by UNEP.

For More Information Please Contact:
Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson/Head of Media UNEP, Mobile in Japan, +81 80 3660 1001 and Roaming: +41 7959 65737, Email:

Further Resources
Nagoya Biodiversity summit
UNEP Marine Biodiversity Outlook Series
Statement by UNEP Executive Director
Statement by Biodiversity Convention Executive Secretary
UNEP Regional Seas