World Economy

Oceans Worth $24t, But Sinking Fast

Oceans Worth $24t, But Sinking FastOceans Worth $24t, But Sinking Fast

Oceans are worth at least $24 trillion, but their economic value is threatened by pollution, climate change and over-exploitation, according to a report published by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Working with the Boston Consulting Group and the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, WWF appraised the oceans’ value based on the goods and services they provide, from fishing to the protection against coastal storms, reaching an overall asset value and an annual dividend output (comparable to a nation’s gross domestic product), IANS reported.

Compared with the world’s 10 biggest economies, oceans would occupy seventh place with output of goods and services estimated at $2.5 trillion annually.

“Our oceans are the planet’s natural capital, a ‘factory’ producing an incredible array of goods and services that we all want and need,” said Brad Ack, senior vice-president for oceans at WWF. “But everyday we are degrading, over-consuming, and polluting this productive asset to a point of ever diminishing returns,” he said.

  Reviving the Oceans

The study titled “Reviving the Ocean Economy: The Case for Action” said that at the current rate of ocean warming, coral reefs will disappear completely by 2050.

“More than just warming waters, climate change is inducing increased ocean acidity that, if unchecked, will take thousands of years for the ocean to repair,” the report said.

Over-exploitation is another major cause of the deterioration of the oceans, with 90 percent of globally monitored fish stocks either over-exploited or fully exploited.

For example, the report mentions a 96 percent decrease in the Pacific bluefin tuna population from previous levels.

Among urgent measures proposed by the report are steps to combat climate change, the incorporation of ocean recovery within the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and the establishment of strong commitments to protect coastal and marine areas.

“The oceans are our global savings account from which we keep making only withdrawals,” Ack said.

“To continue this pattern leads to only one place – bankruptcy. It is time for significant reinvestment and protection of this global commons.”


“The deterioration of the oceans has never been so fast as in the last decades,” Marco Lambertini, director general of the WWF told Reuters.

Ocean output, judged as a nation, would rank seventh behind the gross domestic product of Britain and just ahead of Brazil’s on a list led by the United States and China, the study said.

Lambertini said the report aimed to put pressure on governments to act by casting the environment in economic terms and was a shift for the WWF beyond stressing threats to creatures such as turtles or whales.

“It’s not just about wildlife, pretty animals. It is about us,” he said.

The report, for instance, values carbon dioxide absorbed from the air at $39 per ton, drawing on estimates by the US Environmental Protection Agency to judge damage from warming such as more flooding or risks to human health.

The study estimated that total ocean assets, such as coral reefs, mangroves, shipping lanes and carbon absorption, were worth a total of $24 trillion, about 10 times the annual output.

Governments have repeatedly promised, and failed, to prevent ocean degradation. A UN Earth Summit in South Africa in 2002, for instance, set 2015 as the goal for restoring depleted fish stocks.

Lambertini said UN sustainable development goals for 2030, due to be set in September, could help the oceans recover if properly implemented, along with a UN deal to combat climate change due at a summit in Paris in December.

He also urged governments to achieve a UN goal of creating protected areas to cover 10 percent of all ocean area by 2020, up from 3.4 percent now.