Deep oceans deliver $148 bn carbon benefit every year

Report supports shutdown of all high seas fisheries

Media Release | June 5, 2014

Two scientists say fish from the high seas are too valuable to be eaten, because they lessen climate change through the carbon they consume. LONDON, 8 June – Marine biologists have delivered the most radical proposal yet to protect biodiversity and sequester carbon: stop all fishing, they say, on the high seas.

The high seas are the stretches of ocean that nobody owns and nobody claims: they are beyond the 200-mile economic zones patrolled and sometimes disputed by national governments. They are also what climate scientists call a carbon sink, a natural source of carbon removal.

Life in the deep seas absorbs 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and buries half a billion tonnes of carbon on the sea bed every year, according to Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia in Canada and Alex Rogers of the University of Oxford in the UK. The two researchers put the value to humanity of life in the high seas – in terms of its ability to sequester carbon – at $148 billion a year.

Only a hundredth of the fish landed in all the ports in all the world is found on the high seas alone. And around 10 million tonnes of fish are caught by high seas fishing fleets each year, and sold for $16bn.

“Countries around the world are struggling to find cost-effective ways to reduce their carbon emissions. We’ve found that the high seas are a natural system that is doing a good job of it for free,” said Professor Sumaila.

“Keeping fish in the high seas gives us more value than catching them. If we lose the life on the high seas, we’ll have to find another way to reduce emissions at a much higher cost.”

Staying in the depths

But it isn’t just the high seas that sequester carbon. In a second study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, British and Irish researchers argue that deep sea fish remove and stow away more than a million tonnes of carbon dioxide just from waters around the British coasts and the Irish Sea. If this volume were valued as “carbon credits” it would add up to £10mn a year ($16.8mn).

The reasoning goes like this. Deep water fishes don’t rise to the surface, they depend on food that filters down to them from above. At mid water level, there is a huge and diverse ecosystem involving many species that rise to the surface to feed during the night and then sink back down again, and some of this reaches the depths.

Clive Trueman of the University of Southampton and colleagues measured ratios of isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in the tissues of fish caught at depths between 500 and 1800 metres to calculate the original sources of food: more than half of these fish got their energy – their food supply – from fishes that went to the surface. But deep water fish, when they die, stay at depth. Their carbon doesn’t get back into the atmospheric system.

Research like this is done to solve the puzzles of the planetary ecosystem, but also to explore the options open to politicians who will one day have to confront the mounting costs of climate change.

The declaration of the high seas as “off limits” to all fishing sounds utopian, but fisheries scientists have repeatedly argued that present fishing regimes are not sustainable, and that radical steps must be taken.

Fish sanctuaries

Callum Roberts, of the University of York, UK, has been making the case for “marine parks”, or undisturbed ocean and shallow water wildernesses, for more than a decade.

Like pristine tropical rainforests, or protected wetlands and prairies, these would be nurseries and safe zones for rare or otherwise threatened species of plants and animals. But they would also serve as valuable carbon sinks. Either way, humans would benefit because the marine parks would slow global warming and limit climate change.

“The more abundant life is, and the more the seabeds are rich, complex and dominated by filter feeders that extract organic matter from the water, and creatures that bury matter in the mud, the more effective the seas will be as a carbon sink. Overfishing has diminished that benefit wherever it has taken place just at the time when we need it most,” Professor Roberts told Climate News Network.

“I think the carbon sequestration argument is a strong one. The deep sea is probably the biggest carbon sink on the planet by virtue of its enormous size.

“It is incredibly important as a sink, because once carbon is trapped there, it is much harder for it to get re-released into the atmosphere than is the case for carbon sinks on land, like forests or peat bogs.”

Planetary benefits

Protection of fish on the high seas would also be good for fish stocks in the exclusive economic zones nearer the shores, where the global catch is more carefully managed, and where some areas are already protected.

This would benefit all nations where people depend on fishing or fish farming. At the moment, only a small number of nations maintain high seas fleets.

The Global Ocean Commission, which commissioned the high seas study, claims that such a decision would make economic, social and ecological sense: the oceans supply “vital services” to humanity. They provide half of the planet’s oxygen, deliver nourishment for billions of people, and regulate the climate.

To protect the high seas could help offshore fish stocks, but demand for fish is likely to grow in step with population increases, and fish produce at least one sixth of the animal protein that humans consume.

The supply of “wild” fish caught by net or line peaked nearly two decades ago. The World Resources Institute believes that production of farmed fish and shellfish will have to increase by 133% by 2050.

Source: Climate News Network

Water disinfection application standards (for EU)

What is in our water

Water purification has largely developed in the past century.

Drinking water disinfection
For decades, chlorine has played an important role in water treatment. Chlorine is the most widely applied disinfectant. The advantage of chlorine is that is can easily be produced and that it is relatively cheap. Chlorine effectively kills pathogens. It contributes to the reliability of drinking water produced from surface water. Chlorine tablets are used to disinfect water on locations where no collective drinking water treatment takes place. After the discovery of chlorinated byproducts, the use of alternative disinfectants has increased.

Standards for drinking water disinfection in the EU

The development of drinking water disinfection in Europe has taken the same course as drinking water disinfection in the USA. Most European countries applied drinking water disinfection at the end of the nineteenth century or the beginning of the twentieth century. Chlorine was often used for this purpose.
The eldest known application of drinking water disinfection in Europe was the addition of chlorinated bleach in Middelkerke (Belgium). In 1905 the London Metropolitan Water Board started applying drinking water disinfection after researching the disinfection mechanism of chlorine in water purification. This organisation was of the opinion that chlorine disinfection was a suitable alternative for long-term storage of raw water. During storage pathogenic bacteria died out naturally.
In Europe, most drinking water production companies use chlorine as a disinfectant. It is added to water as chlorine gas, calcium hypochlorite or sodium hypochlorite. Ozone is added for flavor and odor control. For drinking water preparation from surface water, chlorine is used as a primary disinfectant in most cases. For groundwater treatment, which is a simpler treatment process, chlorine is often the only proper disinfectant.
Europe uses alternative disinfectants for drinking water disinfection, as well (table 1). France, for example, mainly uses ozone. In 1906 one started applying ozone for drinking water disinfection. Italy and Germany use ozone or chlorine dioxide as a primary oxidant and disinfectant. Chlorine is added for residual disinfection. Great Britain is one of few European countries that use chloramines for residual disinfection in the distribution network and for the removal of disinfection byproducts. Finland, Spain and Sweden use chloramines for disinfection occasionally.

Table 1: disinfection applications in the European Union (1998)



Desinfection applications: 1. Most commonly used, 2. Commonly used, 3. Used occasionally
(a) Flamboyant conversion from chlorination to the use of UV light as a disinfectant, namely for groundwater containing a high concentration of trihalomethanes
(b) UV implementation is expected

European Drinking Water Guideline 98/83/EC

In 1998 the European Union accepted the Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC. This guideline is a framework of quality demands for European drinking water. The appendixes include parameters that must be checked to determine drinking water quality. The countries of the European Union can add their own demands to this guideline.

Biocidal products guideline

In 1998 the Biocidal Products Guideline was implemented. A biocidal product is an active substance or a preparation purpose that contains an active substance, which is ment to kill or deactivate harmful or unwanted microorganisms, by means of biological or chemical resources. Chemical disinfectants for water disinfection are also rated as biocidal products. When a biocidal product is used incorrectly, it may cause damage to human, animal or plant health, or to the environment. The countries of the European Union determine whether a substance can be used for certain purposes. When a company needs permission to apply a certain biocidal product, this must be requested from the government of its country. A demand must also be sent to the European government. The governments of countries mainly decide whether a substance is permitted. This may cause a substance to be permitted by a certain European country, but restricted by the European Union and vice versa.