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Marine Science



Protecting select ocean areas boosts total catches. A new study titled ‘Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate’ has been published in the scientific journal Nature. The study reveals that protecting select areas of the world’s oceans from fishing practices, including ‘destructive’ bottom trawling, and other damaging activities helps safeguard critical habitats, boost biodiversity, and reduce global carbon emissions.

“A key finding of this study is that it’s possible to save the oceans and help feed the world,” said Oceana Chief Scientist Katie Matthews, Ph.D.

“This research reveals that strategically placed marine protected areas (MPAs) that prohibit fishing can increase the number of fish in our waters, so much so that it could increase the catch of seafood by over 8 million metric tons relative to business as usual. If we give fish and our oceans a little help, they can come back. Restoring the world’s oceans is urgent and necessary to alleviate global hunger and malnutrition, especially as the impacts of our climate crisis become more apparent.”

Globally, our oceans have absorbed 90% of the extra heat resulting from human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment. But additional carbon is also being released into the oceans during bottom trawling, a destructive fishing method that drags large nets across the seafloor snagging deep sea corals and stirring up sediment. This remobilisation of carbon is comparable to global aviation’s annual emissions and exceeds the annual emissions of all countries except China, the United States, Russia, and Japan. Stopping bottom trawling – especially across pristine seafloor – keeps that carbon locked away.

“Smart ocean protection will help to provide cheap natural climate solutions, make seafood more abundant and safeguard imperilled marine species – all at the same time,” said study co-author, Killam Research Professor at Dalhousie University and Oceana Science Advisor Dr. Boris Worm in a statement. “The benefits are clear. If we want to solve the three most pressing challenges of our century – biodiversity loss, climate change and food shortages – we must protect our ocean.”

“The oceans are mankind’s biggest ally in the fight against climate change, but they are also bearing the brunt of impacts, from mass coral bleaching to vast dead zones. To ensure that bottom trawling doesn’t further contribute to this climate crisis – and to safeguard the oceans, food security, and the livelihoods and cultures of millions – we must protect key areas from this and other damaging practices,” Matthews added.