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Protect populous coastlines to fight climate change, scientists say

Protect populous coastlines to fight climate change, scientists say

Radical new approach could slash global carbon emissions while increasing fish catch, but experts flag implementation challenges in Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea

An ocean protection strategy that targets densely populated coastal areas, rather than ringfencing the most remote corners, could deliver game-changing climate benefits. It could also increase food production and restore the biodiversity of fragile ecosystems, scientists have said.

An international team of 26 researchers found seabed dredging currently poses a particular danger. Dredging disturbs marine sediments, releasing the organic carbon stored underground. This leads to carbon dioxide build-up and acidification. Putting a stop to just this form of fishing would prevent up to one billion tonnes of carbon emissions annually. This is equivalent to the total CO2 emissions from the aviation industry and about 2.5% of total global emissions.

A combination of new protected areas along populated coastlines, free from human interference, and more sustainable fishing practices would also restore key biodiversity hotspots and increase fish catch. Healthier fish and larvae would naturally spill over into unprotected waters, the researchers wrote in a study published in the journal Nature.

‘Triple win solutions for ocean management’

“Food, biodiversity and climate change are the three defining challenges of our time,” said author Boris Worm, a biology professor at Dalhousie University in Canada. “So we asked, how can we use ocean protection more intelligently, to cover all three objectives at the same time?”

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