SINGAPORE: The World Bank on Friday said the world's oceans were at risk and called for a coalition of governments, NGOs and other groups to protect them, aiming to raise $1.5 billion in five years.
"The world's oceans are in danger," from over-fishing, marine degradation and loss of habitat, World Bank president Robert Zoellick said. "Send out the S-O-S: We need to Save Our Seas."
About 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted, including most of the stocks of the top 10 species, he told the World Oceans Summit in Singapore.
"The facts don't lie and the statistics are we are not doing enough, we are not accomplishing enough and the oceans continue to get sick and die," he said.
Zoellick said there were already "considerable resources devoted" to restoring the planet's oceans, but a huge, coordinated global effort was needed.
He proposed several targets for the Global Partnership for Oceans to achieve in the next 10 years, including rebuilding at least half of the world's fish stocks.
Marine protected areas should be more than doubled, he said, noting that less than two percent of the ocean's surface is protected compared to around 12 percent of land.
On the economic side alone the implications are enormous if little is done, he told the gathering.
In developing countries, one billion people depend on fish and seafood for their primary source of protein and over half a billion rely on fishing as a means of livelihood, Zoellick said.
For developing countries, including many island and coastal nations, fish represent the single most traded food product, and for many Pacific Island states fish make up 80 percent of total exports.
Zoellick described the initiative as a "new approach" and said the coalition "will bring together countries, scientific centers, NGOs, international organizations, foundations and the private sector to pool knowledge, experience, expertise, and investment around a set of agreed upon goals."
He added: "To make our oceans healthy and productive again, we need greater cooperative action and integrated action around the globe, so that our efforts add up to more than the sum of their parts."
As a starting point, the partnership is committing to raise at least $300 million in "catalytic finance", meaning funds that would be used for technical assistance for key governance reforms, he said.
Another $1.2 billion would be raised "to support healthy and sustainable oceans," he added.
"This would total $1.5 billion in new commitments over five years," he said, adding that the World Bank would convene the first meeting of the partnership in Washington in April.
NGOs already spend about $100 million a year on oceans and the Global Environment Facility has invested as much as $600 million to fund coastal and marine projects.
The World Bank is also investing $1.6 billion in coastal zone management, fisheries, and marine protected areas but "the scale of the challenge is that these singular efforts are simply not enough," he said.
The partnership should also aim to "increase the annual net benefits of fisheries to between $20 billion and $30 billion" from the current net economic loss of about $5 billion a year.