Use the ocean’s resources, but don’t deplete them

Think of the ocean as a trust fund. You can only use the interest. For millennia, humans lived off the interest of the earth’s abundant natural resources. But in the last century, we’ve been rapidly, dramatically depleting the principal.

The Trump administration announced last week that it would open 90 percent of our coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. It declared last month that it would shrink or eliminate several national monuments — both terrestrial and marine. Last year, it rolled back safety requirements that prevent spills such as the Deepwater Horizon, and it stated it would reconsider protections of national marine sanctuaries. The reigning principle here, to the extent that there is one, is to put short-term economic gains first, way ahead of the environment.

Apparently lost on the administration are two simple facts: If we want to keep fishing, we need places where there is no fishing. If we want to maintain coastal tourism economies, we need places without drilling.

This is not about hugging whales and waxing sentimental about coral reefs.

We need to use the ocean — food security and jobs depend on it. But we must be careful not to use it up. And right now, despite its vastness, we are indeed in danger of using it up.

Think of the ocean as a trust fund. If you want to rely on that fund for the rest of your days, you can only use the interest. For millennia, humans lived off the interest of the earth’s abundant natural resources. But in the last century, we’ve been rapidly, dramatically depleting the principal. We are also hurting our interest rate — destroying nature’s ability to heal itself.

We are overfishing the ocean, killing fish faster than they can make babies. Thirty-two percent of the world’s fish populations are overfished, and another 58 percent are fished to their maximum. Warming and acidifying waters are annihilating our coral reefs, which are on track to collapse by 2050. That’s despite the fact that many reefs are protected; the situation would be worse if fishing and other activities were permitted in those areas.

The ocean is often out of sight and out of mind, obscured beneath the surface. It can be hard to imagine how we could possibly influence something so large. But if we are not careful, we will lose our valuable ocean resources and all the food and jobs they provide.

Fishing provides work for 11 percent of the world’s population. Seafood accounts for…

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