Apr 4, 2020 - Science

Saving the oceans for the future

A whale tail in the ocean
A humpback whale dives. Photo: M Swiet Productions

A new scientific review published in Nature found that marine life has been rebounding in recent years, thanks to conservation efforts, and the oceans could be fully restored by midcentury.

Why it matters: The oceans cover almost two-thirds of the Earth's surface, yet for too long we've treated the waters as a dumping ground.

The oceans are not in great shape. Coral reefs are bleaching, fish are being fished out and microplastics are spoiling the water. Despite that ill treatment, the oceans are more resilient than we thought — and humans have helped.

  • Researchers found that the proportion of marine species threatened with extinction dropped from 18% in 2000 to 11.4% in 2019, thanks in part to conservation efforts.
  • The review authors reported that oceans could be fully restored by 2050 by focusing on rebuilding marine habitats and fighting climate change.

The bottom line: Saving the oceans won't be cheap — the study scientists estimate it could cost $10 billion–$20 billion a year. But the benefits could be 10 times that much, and might just be priceless.

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