Pacific Ocean under threat

Climate Change

Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean is vast, as seen from high above the Earth. It spans a third of the planet's surface area, and threats to its health have the potential to affect coastal communities, food supplies and health.

Credit: NASA

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The Pacific Ocean, occupying a third of the planet's area, faces threats that will render some coastal areas uninhabitable, researchers say.

Pollution such as sewage and runoff from land and toxic waste, habitat destruction, over-fishing and climate change leading to sea level rise, ocean acidification and warming will all interact to damage the ocean's ecology and coastal economies.

These are among the findings of Pacific Ocean Synthesis, a report by the US-based Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) that reviewed more than 3,400 scientific articles and reports from 50 countries in the Pacific basin.

COS presented the report at the World Ocean Conference in Manado, Indonesia, earlier this month.

The study divided the Pacific Ocean into seven regions, revealing threats and potential solutions for each.

Widely applicable solutions include capacity building in ocean management, efforts to adapt to climate change and reduce overfishing, and using information technologies to monitor and share information, said Noah Idechong, a COS researcher from the Pacific Island of Palau. All should be high priority, he added.

"Synthesising information gives us a good idea of what is happening [in the Pacific Ocean]. I think one of the most important findings is that so much [research] has been done," he Idechong said.

The report also summarises various gaps in research, such as insufficient information about different pollution effects, the need for standardised biodiversity and water quality monitoring and poor information about the socioeconomic effects of sea surface temperature rises.

The capacity to analyse and communicate information, and to make use of monitoring systems to network and share solutions, is one of the gaps that nations should work on, said Idechong.

Meg Caldwell, COS executive director, said the report is an important tool for policymakers: "This [report] represents a vast information resource about what is occurring in the individual countries."

Hundreds of scientists have already signed a consensus statement, 'Ecosystems and people of the Pacific Ocean - Threats and opportunities for action', warning that, left unchecked, the threats could have "devastating consequences for coastal economies, food supplies, public health and political stability".