Do you wonder:
– Where are dead zones most abundant and most severe?
– How many of global coral reefs are now already threatened, destroyed, or in critical danger, and how does this vary globally?
– Where are the world’s shipping lanes most concentrated, and what impact do they have?
– What sources of energy from the oceans are being developed and implemented?
– What places are most vulnerable to rising sea levels?
– How quickly is the ice being lost from the Arctic and from the West Antarctic Peninsula?
– Where are ocean territorial disputes most serious, and where are pirates most successful?
– Where have Integrated Coastal Ocean Management Plans been created, and why haven’t they been successful?
– Where are the world’s embarrassingly small Marine Protected Areas located?
The Atlas of Coasts and Oceans by Don Hinrichsen, just out in soft cover, looks at these and many other questions with 2 or 4 page spreads liberally illustrated with global and regional maps, pie charts and histograms, and lays out the many stresses the oceans and and coastal ecosystems face in relentless detail. Concise, well organized, colorful, the atlas emphasizes just how much we know about what the press of humanity has done to the oceans, both directly in terms of resource use, urbanization and tourism, and indirectly, in terms of climate change.
The Atlas ends with a section on coastal and ocean management. Almost all coastal nations have developed management plans, almost all recognize that managing at the level of Large Marine Ecosystems is necessary, and almost all of the plans still exist only on paper, while the need for action grows ever greater.
Of the 64 LMEs of the world, only 5 have any plan in place: the Mediterranean, Baltic, Black, Caribbean, and North Seas. Many other International Management Plans also now exist, but again only a few are functional – the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Black Seas.
Not coincidentally, these are five of the LMEs most likely to be unable to recover. They are examples, if we really need them, of the all too familiar human response of refusing to take action to try to fix something until it is too late.
The Atlas is a valuable addition to the global debate. The overall impact of course is grim and disturbing, but clearly we also have the knowledge and the management tools to at least alleviate some of the stress.
How can we possibly know all this, and still not take sufficient action?