Normally, we hear much about the environmental degradation on the land. But how familiar would you say you are with the waters? On this World Oceans Day, we want to talk about the importance of our oceans. Moreover, we also want to dig into the key current threats to the oceans and what action is taken by the global leaders at this stage.
Please also read: Blue is the new green: Oceans vital to Earth’s vitality
Top 6 reasons why oceans are important
1) They generate most of the oxygen available on this planet
Altogether, rainforests produce approximately 28% of the oxygen on earth. Oceans, on the other hand, generate over 80% of this chemical element. In the oceans, there are such creatures as phytoplanktons. Those are the microscopic plants that are similar to plants on the land in how they participate in the photosynthesis process. Simply put, they likewise absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
2) They regulate climate
The waters of the oceans absorb the heath that is generated within our earth surface. That stated, the oceans therefore regulate the warm water flows (by moving those from the equator to the poles) and cold water flows (by transporting those from the poles to the tropics). Had there been no such transportation activity provided by the oceans, the weather would reach extremely high temperatures, making some parts of the world absolutely inhabitable.
3) They provide us with food
Global seafood consumption has more than doubled in the past 50 years.
The highest consumption at EU level is observed in Portugal (61.5 kg per head) while outside the EU, the top consumers are Korea (78.5 kg per head) followed by Norway (66.6 kg per head).EU Science Hub, 2018
An important point to add here, however, is that not everything we consume from the Oceans is just fish or seafood. Algae and other sea plants are also used on a daily basis, and not just in food industry, but also in medicine and other essential sectors.
4) Their ecosystems are crucial biodiversity reservoirs
Scientists predict that there are over 300.000 different species underwater. According to the US National Library of Medicine’s National Institutes of Health, “91% of species in the ocean still await description.”
Fun fact: have you ever heard of coelacanth? For quiet some time, scientists believed that this species was extinct. In 1938, however, some fishermen fished it out of the ocean around the South African coasts.
5) They provide us with millions of jobs
By 2030, ocean-based industries will employ more than 40 million people worldwide. The biggest share of those jobs is likely to be in the fisheries sector, followed by tourism. Other than that, there are also aquaculture, renewable energy, mineral resources, biotechnology, shipbuilding, offshore oil and gas, transport, and numerous other marine-industry focused sectors that we, as humans, highly depend on.
Speaking of the developing countries specifically, it is worth to add that the ocean economy of the marine industries is of utmost importance to them. Over 3 billion people who live in these countries rely primarily on the sea for their livelihoods.
6) They offer the best therapy
When we dip in the water, our inner dolphin gets released. It’s called the “mammalian diving reflex”. When our face touches water, our heart rate immediately slows down, and blood moves from the extremities to the brain, heart and vital organs of our body. Seals and dolphins have this reflex, and so do we! When we see, feel, hear, smell or taste water we are happy and at peace. Research has proven that the so-called blue spaces can directly reduce psychological stress and improve mood.Suzanne, 2018
Despite the above listed benefits, Oceans are facing extreme pressure directed at those from all the different sources. However, that there are three most crucial factors contributing to the degradation of the Oceans.
First, it is overfishing. It is estimated, that over 70% of the world’s fish species have been entirely exploited or depleted. This, in turn, happens because the fishing of these species is faster than they can reproduce their populations.
Secondly, it is the general pollution. Here are its key categories:
- Chemichal pollution includes pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, detergents, oil, industrial chemicals, and sewage. These chemicals become a source of pollution once they get into the environment is some upstream spots. Once they reach the coastline, they end up affecting all other marine species out these. Furthermore, they also affect the ecosystems as such, turning those into the dead zones where few marine organisms can’t survive due to the lack of oxygen.
- Also, there is a light pollution. Light that is reflected from both land and marine activities affects migration, reproduction, and feeding timings of numerous marine species.
- Noise pollution from ships, sonar devices, and oil rigs disrupts natural noises in the marine environment. As a result, this likewise has an impact on the species’ communication, migration, hunting, and reproduction patterns.
- Plastic pollution. We dump about 8 metric tons of plastic into the oceans each year. That’s about 17.6 billion pounds — or the equivalent of nearly 57,000 blue whales — every single year. By 2050, ocean plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish.
Finally, those are climate change and the related acidification. The former increases the temperature of the oceans while the latter increases the PH levels of the waters. Both of these have a significant impact on all the living creatures within the Oceans. By the way, did you know that the ocean species are disappearing faster than those on land?
Today, about 7% of the world’s Oceans has some form of protection. Only 2.6% of those, however, are highly protected from the extractive and destructive activities.
Recently, though, there has been a push to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.
The call for 30% marine protection is part of securing a healthy ocean, where marine parks enhance fisheries and sound fisheries management enhances biodiversity conservation. In 2016, at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, IUCN members from 170 countries adopted Resolution 50, which supported the 30% by 2030 ocean protection target.Briggs et al. 2021
Furthermore, some of the world’s countries have gone so far that they pledged to sustainably manage 100% of their waters. Those countries are Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau, and Portugal.
While there is few real Wilderness left on land, most of the marine world is still mostly untouched Wilderness. At the same time, overfishing depletes fish populations around the world and threatens many species. In combination with the other threats oceans face, this could develop into a disaster for marine wildlife.
Marine ecosystems can only thrive if they are protected as marine protected areas, safeguarded and valued for their biodiversity rather than the economic value they can generate. And the oceans are so poorly explored, that no one knows what will happen to these ecosystems if we do not urgently take action.
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