As astronauts in space, we can gain a unique perspective of our planet. Land forms make a myriad of faces across the earth, showcasing familiarity from home. What we fail to appreciate, sometimes, is the competitive beauty of the earth’s vast oceans. These bodies of water make up 70% of the earth’s surface and never get the recognition they deserve. Recently, World Ocean Day strived to bring the focus back to these underrated natural qualities of our home planet, in hopes of saving them. Yes, saving them because our oceans are in dire need of rescue.
Why should we worry about the oceans?
There is so much you probably didn’t even know about the oceans.
According to World Ocean Day Organizers,
“The ocean regulates the climate, feeds millions of people every year, produces most of the oxygen we breathe, is the home to an incredible array of wildlife, provides us with important medicines and so much more!”
And they are correct! In fact, 70% of the earth’s oxygen is generated by the ocean! The ocean also absorbs 30% of all greenhouse gases too. So what happens when these oceans are in danger? Let’s look at a few reasons for concern.
Unfortunately, the oceans have taken a rather hard hit from our activities. The ocean’s ‘dead zones’ are testaments to these deeds. In 2014, it was estimated that there are around 405 ‘dead zones’, or areas that have little to no oxygen and are filled with pollution. These areas are thought to be ripe with chemicals and pesticides from animal agriculture, such as dairy farms and waste treatments. These chemicals cause the appearance of algal blooms in small lakes and waterways, growths that are responsible for depriving the surrounding waters of oxygen. It’s believed that the number of ‘dead zones’ will multiple within 10 years, and if this happens, the oceans will have more dead space than living waters.
Acidification and Warming
No thanks to an increase in methane and carbon dioxide, oceans are warming at an alarming rate. This changes the Ph level of the water from alkaline to a more acidic base. Marine animals depend on the right balance of acid and alkaline, and when this level is off, these creatures suffer and sometimes become extinct. It seems that entire ecosystems are at risk! For example, coral reefs make up the largest number of the endangered ecosystems – 25% of all marine life – and since 500 million people depend on coral reefs for sustenance, this is serious indeed.
Plastics are also devious culprits! As many as 700 marine species are in danger because of our need for convenience. That’s right, when we use plastic bottles, bags and packaging, and these things, more times than not, end up in our planet’s water. At least 27,000 tons of this mess cover the surface of our oceans, but only a fraction of the 8.8 billion tons is collected per year. Our plastic pollution is entangling, suffocating and starving an ever increasing number of sea life – from fish to whales.
Nil Zacharius, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet, said,
“Plastic is ubiquitous in modern society and seemingly unavoidable. But it is worth risking the lives of marine species, the health of the oceans and our own future in the name of convenience? By taking steps to minimize everyday plastics in our lives, we can crush plastic at the source, and give marine life a fighting chance.”
Fishing doesn’t seem like a danger to the earth’s oceans, or does it? Believe it or not, there is such a thing as overfishing, commercial fishing, that is. Bottom trawling, purse seine nets and long line fishing can cause huge amounts of damage to large bodies of water. That’s because more fish are removed than necessary. Although fishing has not declined, fish catch levels have declined since the 1990s, but still, all marine species caught attest for 50% higher than previous levels.
Whales, dolphins and rays are some of the species entangled in nets during commercial fishing. Even though they aren’t meant to be caught, most of them end up dead anyway. Over 40% of the catch of fishing fleet are these ‘unintended’ creatures while 80% of the ‘intended’ catch is drastically over-fished.
Want to hear some alarming news? It’s believed that by the year 2048, the earth’s oceans will be mostly void of fish, or at least filled with more plastic pollutants than sea life.
So, what can we do about all this?
There are a few ways you can help with these problems. One obvious solution is to pay attention to how much plastic you use, decrease that, and make sure your plastic doesn’t end up in the ocean.
You’ve heard about the fact that if the trees die, then we die. Well, it works in similar ways with our oceans. Let’s work together to love our lands and our oceans. Remember, this is the only inhabitable planet we have….so far. So, let’s get our act together.