At least 26 per cent of our oceans need urgent conservation attention topreserve Earth’s marine biodiversity, a University of Queensland-ledinternational study has found.

Dr Kendall Jones said the international community needed to rapidly increasemarine conservation efforts to maintain the health of the world’s oceans.

“Preserving a portion of habitat for all marine species would require 8.5million square kilometres of new conservation areas,” Dr Jones said.

“Currently one-third of all marine species have less than 10 per cent of theirrange covered by protected areas.

“Conserving the areas we’ve identified in our study would give all marinespecies a reasonable amount of space to live free from human impacts likefishing, commercial shipping or pesticide runoff.”

The authors mapped more than 22,000 marine species habitats and applied amathematical approach to identify the minimum area required to capture aportion of each species range.

They also included areas of international importance for biodiversity (knownas Key Biodiversity Areas), and areas where human impacts on the ocean areextremely low (known as marine wildernesses).

They found that the total ocean area required for conservation varied from26-41 per cent, depending on the proportion of each species range conserved.

Key regions for conservation included the Northern Pacific Ocean near Chinaand Japan, and the Atlantic between West Africa and the Americas.

Director of Science at the Wildlife Conservation Society and UQ scientistProfessor James Watson said the findings demonstrated the need for greaterworldwide conservation efforts.

“The world’s nations will be coming together in China this year to sign anagreement that will guide global conservation for the next ten years,”Professor Watson said.

“This science shows that governments must act boldly, as they did for theParis Agreement on climate change, if we are to stop the extinction crisisfacing many marine species.”

Professor Watson said it was crucial that global conservation strategiesinvolved rapid action to protect endangered species and ecosystems, combinedwith approaches to sustainably manage the ocean in its entirety.

“This isn’t just about strict marine protected areas,” he said.

“We need to use a broad range of strategies such as no-fishing zones,community marine reserves and broad-scale policies to put an end to illegaland unsustainable commercial fishing operations.”

The authors stress that ocean conservation was essential for people andbiodiversity.

“Millions of people around the world depend on marine biodiversity as acrucial source of food and income,” Professor Watson said.

“A well-designed global conservation agreement will help preserve theselivelihoods into the future.”

This research has been published in One Earth (DOI:10.1016/j.oneear.2020.01.010).

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