June 4, 2008

Report: Coasts Are Suffering From Climate Change

A U.N. University report said on Wednesday that high food prices could be adding pressure for more fishing along coasts where the environment faces threats from pollution and climate change.

The report said governments needed to work out better policies to safeguard resources. An estimated 40 percent of all people live within 30 miles of coasts.

The study by the university's International Network on Water, Environment and Health (INWEH) said that the decline is terminal and that much more effective management was needed immediately.

"This is one more voice added to the chorus about how bad the situation for the world's coasts is," said INWEH assistant director Peter Sale. He stressed that "fixing the problems do not mean spending more money but spending it more wisely."

Sale said that high prices for foods such as wheat and rice may mean people press for more fishing. The report concluded that management of fisheries is "failing".

"Even in a developing country that critically needs more food it is better to have a management system in place that means they have some fish rather than none at all," he said.

World fish catches peaked in the late 1980s with larger species, such as tuna and swordfish, being progressively fished out, according to the report.

Efforts to defuse the world food crisis, which threatens up to 1 billion people with hunger, caused by factors including rising populations, high oil prices and a shift to biofuels, will be addressed at a U.N. summit in Rome from June 3-5.

"Coastal marine systems have declined progressively in recent decades due to the growth of human populations and their demands on the marine environment and resources," the report said. "Bays and estuaries, sea grasses, and mangroves and wetlands have suffered dramatically in the past 50 years."

"Dead zones" along the coasts are being created by run-off from fertilizers and coral reefs are being threatened from warmer oceans.

Last year, the U.N. climate panel projected that world sea levels will rise by between 7-23 inches this century due to heat-trapping emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels that are melting ice sheets.


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