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U.N. warns against fish stock collapse

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- At the current pace of exploitation, fish stocks will collapse by 2050 unless measures are taken to preserve marine resources, a U.N. agency warns.

"If rising living standards and inefficient methods of production and consumption intensify pressure on nature's natural resources -- from fish, freshwater and the atmosphere to forests and fragile lands -- globalization could become a spectacular failure rather than a savior," U.N. Environment Program Executive Director Achim Steiner said Monday at the Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Furthermore, climate change will have a negative impact on marine life, according to the U.N. environmental agency 2007 yearbook. Global warming is likely to increase the acidity of oceans and to bleach coral reefs, which are natural habitats for fish.

A dramatic expansion of marine protected areas could prevent the collapse of fish stocks, but these secured zones currently represent only 0.6 percent of the world's oceans. These reserves can increase the fish population by over a fifth, according to experts.

In 2002, governments at the World Summit on Sustainable Development supported a marine reserve development program.

But, at the current pace at which protected areas are being created, the yearbook predicts the goal of preserving marine life would only be achieved in 2085, 30 years too late to save commercial fisheries.

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"Despite our best intentions and some admirable efforts to date, degradation of the global environment continues unabated," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday in a message to the environment forum. "And the world's natural resource base in being used in an unsustainable manner. Moreover, the effects of climate change are being felt across the globe, with increasing risks for human health and the loss of ecosystems."

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