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How the ‘blue acceleration’ is supercharging ocean exploitation


From deep-sea mining to industrial-scale fishing, human actions within the oceans are increasing massively in a realm the place few guidelines apply. Only now are we grappling with the right way to regulate the push to plunder the seas



Environment



20 April 2022

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Container transport now carries 80 per cent of worldwide commerce by quantity

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IN THE Nineteen Seventies, the tiny Pacific island state of Nauru was briefly one of many richest international locations on the planet. Its per-capita revenue was on a par with Saudi Arabia, solely this wealth was constructed not on oil, however on faeces. For millennia, passing seabirds deposited their droppings on the island, making a thick crust of phosphate-rich guano, ripe to be made into fertiliser.

It didn’t final: the guano was all scraped away round 20 years in the past. Now Nauru, not filthy wealthy, is the prime mover in one other, controversial push to use assets. As of final 12 months, the nation is fronting an effort to kick-start deep-sea mining within the Pacific, maybe as early as 2023.

It is a microcosm of a a lot wider story. As pressures on Earth’s land develop and terrestrial assets look more and more exhausted, governments and companies are seeing the subsequent large wins on, in and beneath the excessive seas. Whether it’s mineral exploration, transport, power, tourism, desalination, cable laying, bioprospecting or extra, ocean-based industries are selecting up velocity quick.

This “blue acceleration” has many individuals anxious. Our report on sustainable growth on land is hardly good. With the ability to revenue from distant ocean assets rising quickly, and the legal guidelines that govern their exploitation lower than clear, we threat a free-for-all within the deep. “Our society has been based on the degradation of nature, destruction of nature,” says marine ecologist Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer in Residence. “It is essential to …



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