NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Oceans Face Array of Problems

June 5, 2003

Our oceans face a greater array of problems than ever before, says the Pew Oceans Commission. Marine life and vital coastal habitats are straining under the increasing pressure of our use.

The crisis confronting our oceans has many dimensions:

  • More than 20,000 acres of coastal wetlands and estuaries that serve as nurseries for many valuable fishery species disappear each year.
  • Every eight months, nearly 11 million gallons of oil run off our streets and driveways into our waters -- the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
  • More than 60 percent of our coastal rivers and bays are moderately to severely degraded by nutrient runoff.
  • If current practices continue, nitrogen inputs to U.S. coastal waters in 2030 may be as much as 30 percent higher than at present and more than twice what they were in 1960.
  • Thirty percent of the fish populations that have been assessed are overfished or are being fished unsustainably.

In addition to these varied threats, climate change over the next century is projected to profoundly impact coastal and marine ecosystems.

According to the commission, the United States needs to ensure healthy, productive and resilient marine ecosystems for present and future generations. In the long term, economic sustainability depends on ecological sustainability.

Source: "America's Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Change," Pew Oceans Commission, June 4, 2003.

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