How the oceans go, so goes our future

Kathleen A. McGinty

Today is my first day leading Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans program, and I couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead for the program, our oceans and the billions of people around the world who depend on the seas for food, work and recreation.

The ocean connects every living thing and system on Earth. Three billion people depend on seafood as a key source of protein and more than a billion stay healthy because they get essential nourishment from fish.

Today, fishing provides livelihood for more than 10 percent of the global population and correcting decades of fisheries failures could add more than $80 billion to the world economy. The impact of the oceans doesn’t just stop at the water’s edge because changes in the oceans are drivers of our climate, weather and biodiversity.

The oceans are so important that I believe they are a fulcrum. How the oceans go, so goes the rest of the world. And among the greatest and most urgent of the problems facing the oceans is overfishing.

We can get this right

Already more than a third of the world’s fisheries are in trouble due to overfishing. Experts warn that more than 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are at similar risk if we don’t change how they are managed.

The good news is that overfishing is also the most solvable environmental problem of our generation with the potential to deliver some of the most significant gains for our planet. And progress is being made.

After decades of declines, more than half of all federal fisheries in the United States that were in trouble have been rebuilt, and this progress is spreading around the world from Europe to Belize, with momentum building in places such as Mexico, Indonesia, Japan, Peru, Chile and elsewhere. Still, there is much more work to be done.

Getting this right really matters. That’s what attracted me most to this position.

Environmental problem? Think economic opportunity.

I’ve worked to protect the environment for more than 25 years – from climate change and clean energy to clean air and clean water. For so many of these critical issues, I’ve viewed them not so much as problems, but rather as economic opportunities in disguise.

If we find balance between our natural resources and our economy, both can thrive. Today, companies and investors around the world certainly see clean energy that way. But it is also true of the challenges facing our oceans.

Science has shown that our oceans are incredibly resilient. Not only can they provide far more food than they do today, but they can heal themselves remarkably fast if given the chance.

An amazing turnaround for U.S. fisheries

EDF has been at the forefront of finding and implementing innovative solutions that align the needs of fishermen, their customers, and the ocean ecosystem they depend on. At the core of our approach are sound science and economics, which have helped us demonstrate not just the problems facing our oceans’ troubled fisheries, but the solutions that will help restore them.

Just as important, we include the people that are most affected by mismanagement – fishermen and women and the families and communities that rely on them. We think they’re the solution, not the problem.

Our approach to fishing is a perfect example of balance, and the EDF team has achieved remarkable success. Here in the U.S., the solutions we’ve developed have turned around fisheries that were near collapse, like the West Coast groundfish and Gulf red snapper fisheries. Where once there was devastation, today there is abundance, and fishermen and women are better off.

But we can’t let up

Thanks to EDF’s work around the world, more and more countries see smart fishing approaches as a critical tool to protect our precious ocean resources and provide the food and jobs their people need. We’re showing the world that good policy and practices can protect our ocean resources and ensure food and jobs for generations to come.

We’re not done, and the clock is ticking. But we’re on the right track. I can’t wait to get started with this incredibly talented team of experts, and I look forward to the journey ahead.

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