Some of the most bio-diverse waters on the planet are about to be saved. Although Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Columbia, along with a handful of other countries represent less than 10 percent of land and and water on the earth, they house over 70 percent of all our bio-diversity. In a revelatory announcement made just this month, the three countries have decided to implement strict protections for over 83,600 square miles of marine reserve near their shores, which is currently home to innumerable sea creatures.
The Impending Crisis: A Global Decrease in Marine Life
Shockingly, the number of inhabitants in and near our oceans has been cut in half in the past forty years. This includes life as varied as marine mammals, birds, reptile, fish, corals, and even micro-organisms that support the entire oceanic habitat from the sea bottom to its glistening surface.
Pollution, over-exploitation, climate change, over-fishing, habitat degradation, and rising sea acidity levels are all contributing to the problem.
Louise Heaps, Chief Advisor on Marine Policy at WWF-UK explains:
“As well as being a source of extraordinary natural beauty and wonder, healthy seas are the bedrock of a functioning global economy. By over-exploiting fisheries, degrading coastal habitats and not addressing global warming, we are sowing the seeds of ecological and economic catastrophe.”
3 Responsible Countries – Part of a Solution
Columbia has pledged to more than double the size of the Malpelo Flora and Fauna Sanctuary 300 miles from the mainland’s coast. This area is currently one of the largest no-fishing zones in the area, hosting one of the world’s largest collection of shark species.
Costa Rica has promised to expand Cocos Island National Park, quadrupuling a restricted area that currently keeps white-tip, whale, and hammerhead sharks safe.
Ecuador also recently announced the creation of a new marine sanctuary around the Galápagos islands of Darwin and Wolf, which scientists say will support a unique and economically valuable ecosystem that previously did not receive adequate protection from threats like overfishing. The Galápagos Marine Reserve already spans more than 50,000 miles, and is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. While smaller-scale artisanal fishing was allowed in this area up until now, there will be a strict “no-take” zone within the new marine reserve.
Pelayo Salinas de León, a senior marine scientist with the Charles Darwin Foundation says that some of these areas are,
“probably some of the most spectacular and significant marine ecosystems that we have on the planet.”
Why Save the Oceans?
Oceans are vital to the health of the entire planet. Aside from providing a number of resources to human beings, they also help to control temperature and the weather by absorbing over half the heat which reaches the earth from the sun. The ocean additionally acts as a significant Co2 sink, and is the home of billions of phytoplankton. These tiny creatures not only provide sustenance for larger ocean creatures, but phytoplankton also account for more than half of the oxygen that we and other land-dwelling creatures breathe.
How You Can Help
Though you may not be able to pass significant laws which protect ocean waters single handedly, there are other ways that you can help to save our oceans.
Reduce Your Use of Plastics. Plastics are practically choking our marine life to death. Marine plastic pollution has impacted at least 267 species worldwide, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species and 43% of all marine mammal species. studies have revealed solid evidence of between 6,350 and 245,000 tonnes of plastic floating on the ocean surface. Plastic food containers and packaging are the largest component of the municipal solid waste stream (80 million tons or 31.7 % total). Try to re-use your own containers and cups to avoid this waste or pressure your favorite restaurant to use only bio-degradable, non-plastic containers.
Don’t Purchase Products that Exploit Marine Life. Items like tortoise shell brushes or combs, coral jewelry or shark products are harmful to the ocean’s ecosystem.
Play Responsibly. If you are kayaking, boating, or surfing, never throw man-made items into the water, and consider using bio-degradable sunscreen.
Volunteer or Give Financial Support to Non–Profits that Save our Oceans. There are a number of organizations that work toward cleaning up our oceans. You can volunteer, such as in participating in a beach clean-up, or give funds to initiatives that aim to keep our ocean life safe. More than 18 million pounds of trash was collected by more than 800,000 volunteers during last year’s International Coastal Cleanup.
China, India, and the US are Among the Largest Marine Polluters. Consider boycotting corporations who disregard ocean life with their practices. Arby’s, Quiznos, Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, Dairy Queen, Dominos Pizza, and Papa John’s were recently names as some of the most irresponsible ocean polluters.
Image credit: www.borongaja.com
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