The NOWPAP region is one of the world’s most densely populated, home to over 300 million people, most of them living in coastal areas and closely dependent on the environmental, economic and social services provided by northwest Pacific marine and coastal ecosystems.

Stretching 2,500 km from north to south, the northwest Pacific has climate zones ranging from temperate to subtropical. Wide variations in demographic distribution and the industrial technologies and agricultural practices used across the region, result in an uneven dispersal of anthropogenic pressures. This, combined with the sharp differences in climate, sea currents, river run-offs and water exchange processes which determine and/or control ecosystem services, leads to a great variety of ecological problems.

The region has two very dissimilar seas. One (A), located between Japan and Sakhalin Island in the east and the Russian mainland and the Korean peninsula in the west, is quite deep, connected with the Pacific Ocean and East China Sea through shallow straits, with its northern area ice-covered in winter. The other (B), situated west and south of the Korean peninsula is a shallow marginal basin having relatively restricted water exchange with offshore waters but receiving sizeable coastal water run-offs, being located in the vicinity of the mouth of the biggest river of the Northeast Asia, Amur or Heilong Jiang River.

A quarter of the world’s fish catch is produced in the NOWPAP region, which is also rich in sea-based mineral and energy resources, the most important being oil and gas. Sand and gravel from the northwest Pacific seabed are widely used with over 26 million m3 used in 2010 in the Republic of Korea.

Its wide climatic diversity has made the northwest Pacific a global biodiversity storehouse with about 65,000 marine species reported in Chinese, Japanese and Korean waters.

The NOWPAP seas constitute a global maritime transport hub with more than half of the world’s top 20 container terminals located in the region.

Environmental threats

  • Loss and degradation of coastal habitats and landscapes linked to urbanization and tourism
  • Chemical contamination of waters, sediments and biota from land-based sources through river and atmospheric transport
  • Eutrophication caused by human-induced entry of nutrients into marine waters resulting in harmful algal blooms and hypoxic (oxygen starvation) conditions in coastal waters
  • Marine pollution incidents linked to the high shipping density as well as industrial activities
  • Marine litter and microplastics, concentrated especially in bays and shallow seas, is a growing concern
  • Alien and invasive species threaten biodiversity and habitats
  • Overfishing and destructive fishing practices lead to the reduction of fish stocks and community changes

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