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Study Reveals Only About 4 Percent Of Ocean Is Protected

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The United Nations had drawn up 20 goals five years ago that aimed to protect at least 10 percent of the world's oceans by 2020. Representatives from different countries met up in Japan and created these goals called the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

However, a new study revealed that only about four percent of the world's oceans are actually part of marine protected areas (MPAs). Researchers from the University of British Columbia said that major areas of the world's oceans must still be protected in order to achieve even the simplest global goal.

In a report published in the journal Oryx, Lisa Boonzaier and co-author Daniel Pauly from the university's Institute for Ocean and Fisheries examined 2006 data from another UBC report. They then checked information maintained by Sea Around Us and found that less than 6,000 MPAs or four percent of the world's oceans have been designated in 2013.

Boonzaier explained that the Aichi Biodiversity Targets call for much more than just 10 percent marine protection and that MPAs should be equitably and effectively managed to ensure that the goal of biodiversity is successfully achieved. MPAs are zones in the oceans where fishing and extracting of resources such as seaweed, crustaceans, oil and gas is prohibited.

"We need all types of protection and a lot more," said Boonzaier. "I think this research shows that we need all kinds of protections - and a lot more than 10%."

The study also found that only 0.5 percent of the world's oceans are considered as "no-take" or places where absolutely no extraction is permitted.

One of the study's limitations is that it doesn't measure how protection for MPAs is effectively enforced.

Meanwhile, researchers said that the past decade has seen improvement regarding marine protection. In 2006, previous research said that only 0.65 percent of the oceans were protected.

Pauly said that because of the creation of very large MPAs in recent years, especially the Pew Charitable Trusts' Global Ocean Legacy Project, there is a huge possibility that the Aichi Targets can be achieved.

The Aichi Targets were divided into five strategic goals: to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by spreading awareness through the media and government agencies; to promote the sustainable use of resources and reduce the pressures on biodiversity; to improve the status of biodiversity by protecting species, ecosystems and genetic diversity; to enhance the benefits to all from ecosystem and biodiversity services; and lastly, to enhance implementation through capacity building, participatory planning and knowledge management.

Photo: Arnaud Abadie | Flickr

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