Covering about 70% of the earths surface, the oceans are a highly productive system which continuously recycles chemicals, nutrients and water through the “hydrological cycle”, which powers climate and weather, and which regulates global temperature by acting as a giant heat reservoir from the sun. About two-thirds of the world’s population live within 60 kilometres of the coast, and almost half of the worlds cities with more than one billion people are sited in and around the tide-washed river mouths known as estuaries. From a human point of view, oceans are also a major source of food and employment, provide natural routes for communication, transportation and trade.
The year 1998 was declared International Year of the Ocean by the United Nations General Assembly in order to draw attention to the essential, but limited, resources of the ocean. The benefits from oceans and seas granted to the humanity have been underestimated, and are vulnerable because of the degree of pollution, degradation and overexploitation, which can ultimately threat the coastal human community, their economy and society in general.
Foremost, care, management and use of oceans and seas and their natural resources is a common responsibility, demanding the maximum effort from all countries in order for it to be achieved sustainably.