UN concern over oceans, despite receding oil & chemical threats

Press Release – UNEP, October 4, 2006
Photo: Rolf Hicker, Hicker Nature Photography
The Hague, 4 October 2006 – A rising tide of sewage is threatening the health and wealth of far too many of the world’s seas and oceans, a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says.
In many developing countries between 80 per cent and nearly 90 per cent of sewage entering the coastal zones is estimated to be raw and untreated.
The pollution– linked with rising coastal populations, inadequate treatment infrastructure and waste handling facilities– is putting at risk human health and wildlife and livelihoods from fisheries to tourism.
There is rising concern too over the increasing damage and destruction of essential and economically important coastal ecosystems like, mangrove forests, coral reefs and seagrass beds.
The problems contrast sharply with oil pollution. Globally, levels of oily wastes discharged from industry and cities has, since the mid 1980s been cut by close to 90 per cent.
Other successes are being scored in cutting marine contamination from toxic persistent organic pollutants like DDT and discharges of radioactive wastes.
The study, called the State of the Marine Environment report, says overall good progress is being made on three of nine key indicators, is mixed for two of them and is heading in the wrong direction for a further four including sewage, marine litter and ‘nutrient’ pollution.
Nutrients, from sources like agriculture and animal wastes, are ‘fertilizing’ coastal zones triggering toxic algal blooms and a rising number of oxygen deficient ‘dead zones’.
Meanwhile, the report flags up fresh areas in need of urgent attention.
These include declining flows in many of the world’s rivers as a result of dams, over-abstraction and global warming; new streams of chemicals; the state of coastal and freshwater wetlands and sea level rise linked with climate change.
Researchers are also calling for improved monitoring and data collection on continents like Africa where the level of hard facts and figures on marine pollution remains fragmented and woefully low.
The report has been compiled by UNEP’s Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources (UNEP/GPA).

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