Obama just created a Pacific Ocean reserve almost twice the size of Texas to curb fishing and oil drilling. Surprisingly, it was President George W. Bush who created the national monument during his final weeks in office. But Obama has increased its size nearly six times over, stretching it out to nearly twice the size of Texas. Obama’s gesture, grand as it is, shows how neglected the oceans are: The fact that few Obama political opponents know or even care about the oceans.
It is worth understanding how much the oceans are worth: 3 Trillion dollars and much more on the non-material scale according to McKinsey. Given the ocean’s central role in our global economy, the state of its overall health should terrify us all: D grade. Some 87 percent of global fish stocks are depleted or in serious trouble (UN figures). Of the world’s 17 largest fisheries, 15 are at or over capacity. Meanwhile the world’s population, with ocean food needs is expected to grow by 2 billion by 2050.
These preserves, now cover more than 2 percent of the world’s oceans, the global goal is 10 percent. However, that’s not 2 percent quality, those with actual fish in it. And where’s the effective governance of those seas? Remember the Elephants? Protected? Right.
Still, these big ideas, like the ones the commission is proposing, are worth aspiring to. The good news is big names are taking note. The European Union is aggressively pushing for an international oceans agenda, and Obama and Bush have clearly recognized that ocean conservation will buttress their long-term legacies. Preserving the ocean is a relatively uncontroversial legacy, as both Obama and Bush have found; with luck, world leaders will also champion the world’s most valuable, and least valued, asset. [foreign policy]
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