A new scientific study has assessed all of the ocean’s resources and assets, giving it a combined value of $24 trillion, which would make it the world’s seventh largest economy. However, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) report, which was published on Thursday, warns that this value is rapidly depleting as the ocean’s resources are getting increasingly polluted or exploited.
The report, which was conducted in association with the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and the Boston Consulting Group, is the first of its kind to consider all of the ocean’s valuable assets and express it as one value. The combined annual value of the ocean’s goods and services is found to be $2.5 trillion, and its overall value as an asset is estimated to be 10 times of the annual figure.
“If the ocean were a country it would be the seventh-largest economy on the planet,” University of Queensland scientist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the study’s lead author, told the journal Nature. “I don’t think that is surprising to any marine scientist, but it may come as a surprise to a lot of people outside marine science.”
The report considered the value of fisheries and other ocean life, global shipping lanes, natural coastal storm protection and productive values from coastlines, and the ocean’s role in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. It also emphasized on how much this value is being threatened by climate change, pollution and overexploitation.
“The ocean rivals the wealth of the world’s richest countries, but it is being allowed to sink to the depths of a failed economy,” Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said in a press release. “As responsible shareholders, we cannot seriously expect to keep recklessly extracting the ocean’s valuable assets without investing in its future.”
The report drew particular attention to the world’s fisheries, warning that 61 percent of global fish stocks are fully exploited and 29 percent are overexploited, leading to precipitous declines in fish populations across the world. “The downward trends are steep and reflect major changes in species abundance and diversity, as well as habitat extent, most over a single human lifespan,” the report warned.
The authors recommended actions that world governments could take in order to preserve the ocean’s value, including pushing for ocean issues in the U.N. sustainable development goals, minimizing the damage from climate change, and forming a “Blue Alliance” of maritime nations to coordinate global ocean policy. “It is this sort of concerted action that this report is calling for, where we have all players on deck, where we’re not trying to blame one group over another but are really bringing together the international community to do this,” Hoegh-Guldberg told the Nature.