The World Bank on Friday said the world's oceans were at risk and called for a coalition of governments, NGOs and other groups to protect them, aiming to raise $1.5 billion in five years.
"The world’s oceans are in danger," from over-fishing, marine degradation and loss of habitat, World Bank president Robert Zoellick said. "Send out the S-O-S: We need to Save Our Seas."
About 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted, including most of the stocks of the top 10 species, he told the World Oceans Summit in Singapore.
"The facts don't lie and the statistics are we are not doing enough, we are not accomplishing enough and the oceans continue to get sick and die," he said.
Zoellick said there were already "considerable resources devoted" to restoring the planet's oceans, but a huge, coordinated global effort was needed.
He proposed several targets for the Global Partnership for Oceans to achieve in the next 10 years, including rebuilding at least half of the world's fish stocks.
Marine protected areas should be more than doubled, he said, noting that less than two percent of the ocean's surface is protected compared to around 12 percent of land.
On the economic side alone the implications are enormous if little is done, he told the gathering.
In developing countries, one billion people depend on fish and seafood for their primary source of protein and over half a billion rely on fishing as a means of livelihood, Zoellick said.
For developing countries, including many island and coastal nations, fish represent the single most traded food product, and for many Pacific Island states fish make up 80 percent of total exports.
Zoellick described the initiative as a "new approach".
The coalition "will bring together countries, scientific centers, NGOs, international organizations, foundations and the private sector to pool knowledge, experience, expertise, and investment around a set of agreed upon goals," he said.
As a starting point, the partnership is committing to raise at least $300 million in "catalytic finance", meaning funds that would be used for technical assistance for key governance reforms, he said.
Another $1.2 billion would be raised "to support healthy and sustainable oceans," he added.
"This would total $1.5 billion in new commitments over five years," he said, adding that the World Bank would convene the first meeting of the partnership in Washington in April.
Environmental group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) lauded the initiative.
"WWF welcomes the renewed interest in the Bank in marine conservation activities. I think this is an important step forward to help all of us advance the marine conservation agenda," said Jason Clay, senior vice president of market transformation for the WWF.
He told AFP the proposal would help to reform global fisheries to make them more sustainable, raise the visibility of marine protected areas and promote ocean conservation to governments and the public.
Addressing the conference on Thursday, Kiribati President Anote Tong called for a change in the way humanity treated oceans.
"We must cease to behave as if we live in a cowboy economy, with unlimited new territory to be conquered," he said.
People must "learn to treat our oceans something like a spaceship where every effort has to be made to recycle materials, reduce waste and pollution and manage resources sustainably," he added.
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