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Benefits of marine and coastal ecosystems to human wellbeing

Besides the well-known economic value of fisheries, there are several other activities generating significant revenues in coastal and marine areas. Tourism has become one of the world’s fastest growing industries, providing a significant proportion of the GDPs of many developing countries. Small island states are particularly reliant on coastal and marine tourism. In the Caribbean, for example, the industry accounts for a quarter of the total economy, and a fifth of all jobs. However, the very areas that attract tourists are also coming under increasing pressure from the damage and pollution caused by tourist facilities and the supporting infrastructure (GESAMP, 2001a).

The world’s oceans also provide for a global shipping industry, which has recorded significant growth in recent years. By 2020, the volume of international trade is expected to have tripled from pre-1995 levels, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with up to 90% of it travelling by sea (McGinn, 1999).

Mining for sand, gravel, coral and minerals has been taking place in shallow waters and continental shelves for decades. Offshore drilling now supplies a substantial proportion of the world’s oil and natural gas, and the offshore industry is expected to grow significantly in the coming years (Stark & Chew, 2001).

- Although marine products such as seafood, sand and oil have been valued for decades, it is only recently that we have begun to appreciate the oceans’ vital services in maintaining ecological diversity and regulating climate.

- A recent calculation, based on more than 100 studies over the past two decades, suggests that ocean services are worth US$23 trillion a year - only slightly less than the world’s total GNP.

- It is estimated that the seas and oceans supply two-thirds of the value of all the natural services provided by our natural environment (GESAMP, 2001a).

- Damage caused by the introduction of non-indigenous organisms to coastal and marine environments totals hundreds of millions of US dollars (GESAMP, 2001b).