What Future for the Oceans?


Oceans, which move in deep connected currents over nearly three- quarters of the globe, have historically been slow to exhibit change. Altered oceanic conditions have often been measured in centuries, not decades. More recently, however, oceans have begun to undergo an accelerated transformation that has caught most people, even in this scientific age, unaware and unprepared.

Some changes hold particular dangers for those who live within 50 miles of a coastline-already nearly two-thirds of the world's population and expected to reach three-quarters by 2025. Other changes, if unchecked, could adversely affect all human and animal life on the planet. Among the most problematic of these developments are rising temperatures and water levels, unprecedented damage to coral reefs, disappearing salt-marsh and mangrove swamps, a sharp decline in fish stocks, and rising levels of pollution.

Thirty years ago the international community was just beginning to worry about the dual effects of technological

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