By Fredrica Syren:
Every other breath we take comes from the Ocean’s breath — from the oxygen produced by its phytoplankton and its rich marine plant life. Oceans cover of our planet and today humans are harming the oceans far more than we realized.
There are multiple factors harming our oceans and all the marine wildlife:
Millions of tons of plastic waste are literally floating around in the Pacific Ocean, which has become the world’s largest plastic dump. Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it’s responsible for killing a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year. It also spreads harmful algae and man-made pollutants into the food chain. It’s estimated that 90% of all trash polluting the ocean is plastic.
It’s a known fact that our oceans are rising and warming up faster than predicted and, in the process, harming the innumerable creatures that live in them. The ocean absorbs about 25 percent of the carbon dioxide humans produce each year and, as it is absorbed, it dissolves to form carbonic acid. This results in the ocean’s becoming more acidic, which changes the delicate pH balance that millions and millions of organisms rely on.
This has the effect of limiting calcium carbonate needed by coral, plankton and other marine life that to build the skeletal frames and shells that protect them. Oceanic acidity has increased by since the industrial revolution, and will eventually destroy much marine life if it increases at this rate. Ocean acidification is a huge problem. The basic science behind acidification is that the ocean absorbs CO2 through a natural process, but at the rate at which we’re pumping it into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels, the pH balance of our ocean water is reaching the point where life within the ocean is having trouble coping.
The Food and Agriculture Organizationestimates that over 70% of the world’s fish species have been exploited or depleted. Not only will fishing boats pull up the fish they want, but also harvest other unwanted marine life that then will die. The problem with this kind of fishing is that, by capturing fish faster and in big qualities, we’re harming an entire eco-system.
Farm raised fish seem like an answer to overfishing, but the truth is that farmed fish feed on an unnatural diet of processed pellets that may contain higher levels of chemicals. Farm raised fish also are fed antibiotics to fight diseases that they are exposed to because of living in smaller pens with so many other fish. For example, research has shown that farmed salmon contain more antibiotic per unit of weight than any other livestock. Fish farms also cause damage and danger to our environment since pollutants such as feces, chemicals, antibiotics and sick fish may leak into our water due to human error.
Destruction of coral reef
The coral reefs are a globally important ecosystem, and the threat against them is earth’s warming waters. Due to the most powerful El Nino on record, the world’s oceans have been heated to never-before-seen levels. Corals turn white as they expel the symbiotic algae that normally live within them. This has led to the death of the largest patches of reefs on record. Another problem for coral reefs is the pollution of chemicals in sunblock that also adds to the destruction of coral reef.
Oceans are essential for our survival. What would happen without our oceans? Watch this video.
Luckily, there is still time for humans to halt the damage if we implement effective programs limiting ocean exploitation. Restricting ocean industrialization to specific regions could allow threatened species to recover in others. Today, 45% of the world’s land is protected but only 14% of marine land is protected. Oceans need to be protected the same way our land is, so we must draw a line around our oceans and protect them. If we do, they will recover, survive and heal. Cuba already has done this successfully, and its marine land, marine life and coral reefs are thriving.
There is a need to translate this urgency to save the world’s oceans. They not only provide habitats for most ocean fish consumed by humans, but also shelter land from storm surges and rising sea levels.
Limiting ocean industrialization to specific regions could allow threatened species to recover in other areas. When we protect critical ecosystems, prevent pollution and carefully manage fishing, our ocean will bounce back.