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Climate change threatening world oceans

by BuaNews Online
on 10 Jun 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

The world's oceans are under the constant threat of climate change, with water levels rising resulting in an increase in the acidity of the water.

The celebration of World Ocean Day on Monday was a sombre reminder of just how volatile the planet is and what must be done to halt climate change.

According to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, World Ocean Day, which was designated in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, provides people with an opportunity to celebrate the oceans of the world and appreciate the benefits that can be derived from them.

This year World Ocean Day's theme was "Helping Our Climate Helping Our Oceans", which seeks to draw attention to the growing impact of climate change on oceans.

Higher water temperatures, rising sea levels and escalating ocean acidity are all indicators of a changing climate which dramatically add to the conservation challenge.

The world's oceans cover more than 70 percent of the earth's surface and are the most productive, yet the most threatened system in the world.

The demands of modern society are damaging marine ecosystems and fast depleting ocean and coastal resources.

The increased use of marine resources and accelerated coastal developments are posing huge challenges in ensuring the sustainability of these resources for future generations.

South Africa has seen the recent adoption of the Integrated Coastal Management Bill, a first for South Africa and the African continent.

The Bill has been called far reaching and progressive as it presents a comprehensive national system for planning and managing the country's valuable coastal areas and resources.

Department spokesperson Mava Scott said: "Over-fishing and destructive fishing practices are threatening important marine resources, fishing livelihoods and economic viabilities of coastal communities.

"All over the world fish stocks are showing signs of drastic decline. At home we have seen the closure of the commercial abalone fishery sector earlier this year [which] followed rapid decline of the resource due to poaching and ecological changing.

"South Africa's hake stocks have also been showing signs of stress, as we see fish stocks plummeting to low levels across the globe."

In South Africa the hake trawl fishery is one of the most valuable sectors.

"Robust and bold steps are therefore required to prevent these stocks from complete collapse. The implementation of mitigating measures is absolutely crucial."

Mr Scott said land based activities were also impacting on the state of oceans.

"Whether in coastal areas or hundreds of miles inland, people and industry impact on our oceans, decreasing water quality to the point where fish and other marine life struggle to survive."

South Africa has completed a draft National Plan of Action for land-based sources of marine pollution which is in the process of finalisation, he said.

"The celebration of World Ocean Day takes place within the context of all these environmental challenges and as South Africans, as citizens of the global community, we have a role to play in helping our climate to help our oceans," he concluded.

As part of World Ocean Day celebration, the department launched a marine and coastal stakeholder's publication, UMLOBI, as a platform to encourage dialogue on marine and coastal developments.

A copy of the publication is available from the department's website on www.deat.gov.za. - BuaNews


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