Substantial recovery of marine life in the world’s oceans is possible by 2050 if major action is taken, including climate change mitigation, according to a scientific review in Nature.
Marine life has been declining for decades because of industrial activity, widespread pollution, the effects of climate change, and other factors.
However, efforts to preserve and restore ocean ecosystems have shown results in stopping or even reversing the loss of certain species, the report argues.
"We are at a point at which we can choose between a legacy of a resilient and vibrant ocean or an irreversibly disrupted ocean, for the generations to follow," the authors of the report said.
Some of the most promising methods for restoring marine life are regulating international hunting of species, managing fisheries at the local and regional levels, and establishing Marine Protected Areas.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature found that the percentage of marine species threatened by extinction has decreased from 2000 to 2019, which shows the efficacy of various protection measures, the review noted. Some populations of species have grown, such as grey seals in Eastern Canada and the Baltic Sea, as well as some populations of sea turtles.
Actions that the review recommended for helping marine life to recover further include restoring habitats, protecting vulnerable habitats and species, adopting cautionary harvesting strategies, reducing pollution, and mitigating climate change.
"One of the overarching messages of the review is, if you stop killing sea life and protect it, then it does come back. We can turn the oceans around and we know it makes sense economically, for human well-being and, of course, for the environment," University of York Professor Callum Roberts, a member of the review team, told the Guardian.
Oceans are a key source of food and water, clean energy, and employment worldwide, the review noted. Restoring and protecting ocean life is essential to sustainable development.
"A concerted global effort to restore and protect marine life and ecosystems could create millions of new — and in many cases — well-paying jobs," the review said.