UN Ocean atlas

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: UN Ocean atlas
From: Laurie&Leanne Knight <>
Date: Fri, 07 Jun 2002 20:53:18 +1000
For those of you with pelagic interests, UNEP launched its ocean atlas the other
day ...
I have appended the press release -

First Comprehensive "real-time" Way To Observe State Of World's Oceans 

       UN Oceans Atlas launched on World Environment Day 

Paris/Nairobi, 5 June 2002 - Amid mounting concern over continuing deterioration
of marine and coastal ecosystems, several of the world's foremost ocean
agencies, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), have
created an Internet-based Oceans Atlas with the goal to help reverse the decline
and promote the sustainable development of oceans. 

The pioneering Atlas, that provides users with continuously updated strategic
data on the state of the world's oceans, maps, development trends and threats to
human health from the deteriorating marine environment is being launched here in
Paris on 5 June, World Environment Day. The Atlas can be accessed online at 

"The Atlas is the first comprehensive real-time way to observe the state of the
world's oceans," said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director. Paying tribute
to the other partners in the Atlas project and in particular the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) that led the initiative,
Toepfer said, "The atlas is the result of extensive cooperation in the UN and
with leading scientific agencies. It is state of the art and an important source
of information that will make a significant contribution to events like the
upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South

The need for the Oceans Atlas was identified during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit in
response to a call to identify and address the greatest environmental challenges
facing the planet. The launch of the Atlas at a meeting of UNESCO's
Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in Paris on 5 June, comes less than
12 weeks before the Johannesburg Summit. 

Making reference to UNEP's recently published third Global Environment Outlook
report (GEO-3), Mr. Toepfer said GEO-3 clearly shows the worsening state of the
coastal and marine environment, and the urgent need to take necessary actions. 

Highlighting the impact on fisheries, Toepfer said, "Just under a third of the
world's fish stocks are now ranked as depleted, overexploited or recovering as a
result of over-fishing that is fueled by subsidies estimated at up to US$20 
annually. GEO-3 shows that marine harvests have risen to over 80 million tonnes
a year, but many fisheries are in a state of collapse," he said. 

GEO-3, online at, also highlights marine
pollution as a major concern, one that seriously threatens human health. And, it
says the oxygen depletion of coastal waters due to excess nitrogen is becoming
more frequent and widespread with major impacts on fisheries, aquaculture and

"Ocean-related issues will almost certainly dominate the international agenda
later this century, if, as predicted, the Earth's continued warming accelerates
sea level rise and adds up to 1 metre to the height of our oceans," Toepfer

Low-lying regions of the world are frequently fertile, densely populated and
invested with expensive infrastructure. The human and material costs of a 1
metre sea-level rise would be huge, affecting over 70 million people in coastal
China, 10% of the population of Egypt and 60% of the people in Bangladesh. Among
wealthier nations, over 60% of The Netherlands' population could be affected and
15% of the people and 50% of the industry of Japan would be threatened. In the
US, 17,000 square kilometres of wetlands, and the same amount of dry land, could
be lost - an area the size of Connecticut and New Jersey combined. In low-lying
countries like the Maldives or the Marshall Islands, the entire population is at

More than 2* years in development after a decade of planning, the UN Oceans
Atlas represents the most ambitious global scientific information collaboration
ever online and an international consensus-building tool expected to assist 
of future marine-related agreements. 

UNEP has been a founding UN agency partner of the Atlas project and one of the
largest contributors to the uses of the oceans section, covering topics such as
disposal of waste from land, human settlements on the coast, recreation and
tourism. The organization's input has been coordinated by the Hague-based UNEP
secretariat of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine
Environment from Land-based Activities (UNEP/GPA) with Kenneth Korporal acting
as the UNEP focal point and representative to the inter-agency UN Atlas
Technical Committee. 

"The compilation and development of appropriate content for the UN Oceans Atlas
has been a large undertaking involving a number of experts in various UNEP
offices and divisions scattered throughout the world," said Veerle Vandeweerd,
Coordinator of UNEP/GPA. "The resulting information will ultimately feed into
other UNEP initiatives," she said. 

Salif Diop, Senior Environmental Affairs Officer with UNEP's Division of Early
Warning and Assessment (DEWA) said the Atlas will serve as an important resource
for a possible future global assessment of the state of the marine environment.
A team from the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre helped write a large
part of the UNEP input. According to Mark Collins, UNEP-WCMC's director, the
Atlas should be the "first port of call for someone who wants to get an overview
of oceans issues." 

The Oceans Atlas is designed to be an encyclopedic resource but also the world's
foremost information clearinghouse and online forum for experts in ocean 

To reach broader audiences and regions where Internet access is difficult the
website will be supplemented by a CD-ROM and other media. More than 900 topics
are currently covered with 17 founding editors. Further issues and several 
designated topic editors will be added over time. 

The Atlas contains an initial 14 global maps and links to hundreds of others,
including 264 maps showing the distribution of fishery resources. A further 100
maps showing global ice cover, navigation routes, earthquake and volcanic 
temperature gradients, bottom contours, salinity and other ocean characteristics
are being contributed by the Russian Head Department of Navigation and

The National Geographic Society will likewise make a major contribution to the
Atlas, including access to its map machine and marine-related information from
its extensive portfolio of books and magazines. The Census of Marine Life, a 
Washington-based organization working to assess and explain the diversity,
distribution, and abundance of marine organisms, will also make its resources
fully available through the Atlas. 

The UN Atlas of the Oceans is funded by the United Nations Foundation. In
addition, six UN agencies (the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the
International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Maritime Organization, the
World Meteorological Organization, UNEP and UNESCO/IOC) have committed financial
resources to the project. Other partners in the project include the UN's
Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, the Secretariat of the UN
Convention on Biodiversity and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric

* * * * * 


The UN Atlas of the Oceans organizes information according to general subject

· Uses - disposal of waste from land, energy, fisheries and aquaculture, human
coastal settlements, marine biotechnology, non-consumptive uses, ocean dumping
and ship wastes, offshore oil, gas and mining, recreation and tourism, and
transportation and telecommunications. 

· Issues - climate variability and climate change, economics, emergencies, food
security, governance, human health, pollution and degradation, safety and
sustainable development. 

· Background - including biology and ecology, how oceans were formed and how
they are changing, monitoring and observing systems, and maps, statistics and
online databases 

· Geographical - categorizes information according to geographic region. 

Among the issues addressed: 

· Fishing: all 17 of the world's major fishing areas have either reached or
exceeded their natural limits and nine are in serious decline, according to the

· Piracy: the number of reported piracy attacks worldwide for 1999 rose nearly
40 percent compared with the previous year and almost tripled compared with 1991
according to the International Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber of

· Algal blooms: The number of poisonous algal species identified by scientists
has nearly tripled since 1984, increasing fish kills, beach closures, and
economic losses. Large parts of the Gulf of Mexico are now considered biological
dead zones
due to algal blooms. 

· Coral reefs: Although distributed in 101 countries and territories, where they
are vital for fisheries, coastal protection, tourism and wildlife, they occupy
less than one tenth of one percent of the oceans, according to the UNEP-WCMC
World Atlas of Coral Reefs 

· Invasive species: Marine bio-invasions have been identified as a major global
environmental and economic problem with several thousand species estimated to be
in the ballast tanks of the world's shipping at any one time. The Atlantic box 
believed to have been released in a ship's ballast water, helped wipe out life
in the Black Sea. In San Francisco Bay, a new foreign species takes hold every
14 weeks, scientists warn. 

For more information please contact: Robert Bisset, UNEP Press Officer and
Europe Spokesperson on mobile +33-6-2272-5842, email:  

Kenneth Korporal, (UNEP focal point and representative to the inter-agency UN
Atlas Technical Committee), UNEP/GPA, The Hague, tel +31-170-3114467, email:

Russell Woodford
Music & Info Systems
Sacred Heart College Geelong
VCE Music Mailing List:  

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