Overall, we know relatively little about our oceans, the
largest and most biologically diverse environment on our planet.
We do know, however, that the health of our oceans has been
deteriorating for many decades. Throughout most of the 20th
century the proliferation of human activities at sea, and
especially in coastal waters, have had adverse effects on
the marine environment. The essential services that the ocean
provides to this planet’s biosphere, such as regulating
atmospheric gas and nutrient cycling, are being compromised.
At the same time, increasing demands are being placed on the
world’s oceans to provide food, resources and services
for an expanding human population.
Although the crisis of the ocean is well-established, it
is not sufficiently accepted as a priority concern on the
part of many governments. At a recent UNESCO-sponsored conference
in Paris, held in December 2001, it was noted that “we
are in a critical situation of declining trends… worldwide.”
Unless oceans and coasts are given a higher priority by the
world community, the outlook leaves little room for optimism.