UN World Ocean Assessment

The United Nations has embarked on a process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment (including socioeconomic aspects) called the World Ocean Assessment (WOA).  The projected completion date for the first WOA is 2014.  Subsequent WOA will be generated on a five-year cycle and will plot evident trends in the state of the marine environment. A scientific and technical summary will show linkages through interdisciplinary subjects such as human impacts, ecosystem services, and habitats. 
The first World Ocean Assessment will include more than fifty subjects grouped within four main themes:

  • marine environment and understanding of the ocean’s role in the global integrated Earth system;
  • food security and food safety;
  • human activities that influence the ocean or are influenced by the ocean;
  • marine biological diversity. 

Here are some interesting ocean facts presented on the World Ocean Assessment home page:

  • 80% of all tourism is based on the marine environment
  • Marine plants produce about half the oxygen in the atmosphere
  • One-third of oil production comes from the marine environment, worth $3 billion per day
  • There could be as many as 13,000 pieces of litter in every square kilometer of the ocean--the exact figure is unknown
  • Only a small percentage of the sea has been mapped by sonar
  • One quarter of all animal protein consumed by humans comes from the sea
  • There are over 50,000 merchant ships on earth employing over 1.2 million mariners
  • All the water we drink originates from the ocean and is eventually returned to the ocean
  • Fishing the ocean's top predators has reduced their numbers by around 90% of what existed prior to 1950
  • Melting of glaciers and polar ice caps is presently causing global sea level rise to .04 millimeters per year
  • 85% of all marine species are unknown to science
  • The ocean will continue without humans, but humans cannot continue without the ocean