Executive Summary for March 9th

In our weekly summary, we report on The Economist World Ocean Summit, a new economic analysis of offshore drilling and a study that shows how marine reserves help fishing.

Published on March 9, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

At World Ocean Summit, Ocean Leaders Find U.S. Absent

As The Economist World Ocean Summit kicked off this week in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, the attendance of heads of states, environment ministers and other officials from Latin America, Europe and Canada underscored the absence of United States leadership on global ocean issues.

“We’re facing an unreliable partner today in the United States for marine funding,” said Steven Adler, chairman of the Ocean Data Alliance during a panel session on Wednesday. “The administration has pulled out of the climate accord, taking climate data off government websites.”

The void is being filled by a growing alliance of other nations.

As the Ocean Summit got underway, ministers from Mexico, Chile, Brazil and other countries were meeting concurrently in Playa del Carmen to discuss multilateral policies to promote the conservation of the Pacific Ocean in the western hemisphere.

“The opportunity is having Canada lead the G7 this year and Argentina lead the G20 – why not take advantage of that and place the ocean at the center of the global agenda?” José María Figueres, the former president of Costa Rica and co-founder of Ocean Unite, said Thursday during a panel.

Catherine McKenna, Canada’s environment minister, stressed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made the ocean a priority during the country’s presidency of the G7 in 2018, focusing on plastic pollution and sustainable fishing, among other marine issues.

“We absolutely need to improve our scientific understanding of the ocean environment,” said McKenna during a press conference on Thursday. “The elephant in the room is, of course, climate change. We know climate change is impacting our oceans but we don’t know the extent.”

“To all the women here, happy International Women’s Day,” she added. “There’s a lot of amazing women kicking it in oceans.”

The High Cost of Offshore Drilling

The Trump administration’s proposed offshore drilling plan is a bad economic deal for coastlines, according to a new economic analysis from the environmental group Oceana. It was released as the comment deadline for the five-year drilling plan ends this week.

The group calculated that the plan could theoretically produce a two-year supply of oil and one-year supply of gas if economically recoverable reserves were developed on Atlantic, Pacific and Florida coasts. However, drilling could threaten more than 2.6 million ocean-dependent jobs and nearly $180 billion in GDP from activities such as fishing, tourism and coastal recreation, the report said. Unlike in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, where drilling activities already occur, almost every Atlantic and Pacific state has opposed the proposal.

The New York Times published a helpful graphic that shows exactly how much new ocean areas could be open to drilling. However, the piece questioned whether the kind of maximal drilling that Oceana calculated would actually occur, given that many oil and gas reserves in areas already open to drilling today aren’t being touched. A big reason why is that drilling methods like fracking have made onshore fossil fuel development cheaper and more viable.

How Marine Reserves Can Actually Boost Fishing

A new study, published in the journal PLOS One, shows that even marine reserves that ban fishing help commercial fishers.

Fishing communities often aren’t fans of no-take marine reserves, fearing their livelihoods will be harmed. But the research, from Florida Institute of Technology, provides evidence that they actually can benefit.

Studying three coral reef fishes off the coast of the Philippines, the scientists found the fish were larger and healthier inside the marine protected areas than they were outside of them. Some of these larger fish then migrate to zones where they can be harvested by fishers.

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