ONLY 13 PERCENT OF THE OCEAN HAS BEEN LEFT UNTOUCHED
With improvements in shipping technology, most of the world’s oceans are no longer considered wild, and these areas are now at risk of being lost, according to research from the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of Queensland.
Nineteen human stressors to the ocean were considered when identifying the oceans’ remaining wilderness – defined as areas devoid of intense human impacts. Such human stressors include commercial shipping, sediment runoff and several types of fishing. Most remaining wilderness is located in the Arctic and Antarctic or around remote Pacific island nations such as French Polynesia. Very little wilderness remains in costal habitats such as coral reefs, salt marshes and kelp forests.
James Watson, a professor at the University of Queensland, director of science at the Wildlife Conservation Society and senior author of the research paper, commented that the findings indicate an immediate need for conservation policies to recognise and protect the remaining marine wilderness areas, as most are currently unprotected.
“Marine wilderness areas are home to unparalleled levels of life, holding massive abundances of species and high genetic diversity, giving them resilience to threats like climate change,” he says. “We know these marine wilderness areas are declining catastrophically, and protecting them must become a focus of multilateral environmental agreements.” The professor adds, “If not, they will likely disappear within 50 years.”
BELOW Wild, untouched areas of the ocean now need the most protection