Elsewhere there are glimmers of hope. We report from Brazil on a new conservation area off the southern coast of Bahia state that will help protect one of the world�s most important coral reefs, and benefit thousands of people who depend on the nearby fisheries to make a living. (See: Brazil's biggest coral reef gets protective boost).
We also report on a study in New Zealand showing that investment in marine reserves could offset the projected economic costs of climate change on the coastal environment. Marine reserves already cover 5.4 per cent of that country�s territorial sea but, the report concludes, the cost of extending them would be minimal compared to the eventual benefits, allowing local communities to prepare themselves for the changes inflicted by larger forces including climate change and intensified human activity. (See: Marine reserves could offset costs of climate change).
But the scale of the danger to our oceans goes beyond commercial fishing, catastrophic though its collapse would be. As Don Hinrichsen sets out in his revised Overview on Coasts and Oceans, healthy oceans are essential to a healthy terrestrial environment. They are the heart of the hydrological cycle; they drive the world�s climate, provide a carbon sink, and are a super highway for cooling, heating and nourishing currents. The oceans also transport pollutants into every corner of the world and are now so overloaded with toxic waste that biologically dead zones are multiplying - with over 200 identified at the last count � from the Gulf of Mexico to the Baltic Sea. (See: Ocean planet in decline).
The difficulties involved in managing our coastal waters, with so many conflicting demands and agencies, are great, as are the resources needed to regulate what goes on in the vast expanses of the sea. But if our growing human population � mostly living within 400 kilometres of the seacoast - are to continue to benefit from the bounty of the sea, we will (in Hinrichsen�s words) �have to stop finding more ways of exploiting more and more species �and start preserving the source of all life on the blue planet.�