It's easy to take the ocean for granted, especially when you see beautiful photographs of vast open blue waters, leaping dolphins, and tropical paradises. However, the health of the ocean and the marine life in it is quite vulnerable to the effects of human activity. As our numbers increase and our wasteful practices get out of hand, the ocean suffers.
This unfortunate truth is why ocean conservation is so important. Also known as marine conservation, it is a relatively new discipline, but one that is quickly becoming recognized as a crucial part of our world. Scientists in this field study the ocean using the latest technologies and methods to measure the ocean's health (the Ocean Health Index). Marine conservation groups also work with different nations to enact practices and policies that help end destructive activities and promote strategies to save the ocean so that the waters and the organisms within it last for generations to come.
Why Is The Ocean Important?
There are four main reasons why the ocean is crucial to our world.
Food: It is estimated that more than 1 billion people rely on the ocean as their primary food source. By 2050, that number may double. To keep feeding our hungry world, we'll need to keep our oceans full of fish and other seafood.
Air and Water: Believe it or not, the ocean produces 50% of the planet's oxygen. That means the air in every other breath comes from the sea. The sea also gives us the rain we need to survive.
Jobs: The ocean is the source (directly and indirectly) of many jobs. From fishing to shipping to tourism, many industries rely on the oceans to keep a business going and growing. Many economies are driven by these industries.
Climate: Sea water prevents the planet from becoming a sauna. It stores the vast majority of carbon, including extra amounts generated by human burning activity. Without the ocean, carbon dioxide levels would start to increase, making life on the planet inhospitable.
What Are The Areas To Focus On?
Ocean conservation involves many different groups of people devoted to everything from research to legal matters. However, their mission is the same - to protect the ocean and marine life.
There are four main problems that these groups are working to solve: damaging fishing activities, coastal habitat and coral reef destruction, climate change, and pollution.
Fishing: While fishing does remove fish from the ocean, it is not inherently a bad practice. However, reckless fishing techniques like dredging up the ocean floor with nets, cutting fins off sharks, and overfishing of areas will lead to marine life depletion. Other fishing activities like trawling and using certain types of nets lead to the accidental death of other organisms. In fact, the single greatest threat to many endangered marine animals like sea turtles is fishing. Conservation groups are working with nations around the world to try to end these practices.
Habitat and Coral Reef Destruction: Ecosystems like coastal forests, tidal marshes, and coral reefs are crucial for the health of ocean life and even our planet as a whole. Shoreline ecosystems are responsible for storing 50% of the earth's carbon even though they only make up 2% of the ocean. They also serve as nesting areas for many marine animals.
Coral reefs are, in many cases, responsible for the survival of an entire ecosystem, providing animals with food, protection, and shelter and keeping whole species alive. They are also an excellent source of biodiversity. Coral reefs are also responsible for sustaining many of the organisms we use as a food source (fish, mollusks, etc.) and are even a source of tourism. Unfortunately, due to pollution and other human impacts, coastal habitats and reefs are degrading and even disappearing.
Climate Change: As mentioned earlier, the ocean absorbs heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to keep the planet from becoming overheated. However, the ocean is now absorbing too much, making it warmer. It is also growing more acidic as a result. This increase not only leads to the death of marine life but also impacts our planet's climate since the ocean plays such a huge role in our water cycle.
Pollution: Ocean pollution has created what are known as "dead zones" in the sea. These are areas where nothing can live because the chemicals have changed the ecosystem so that only plants live, sucking up all the oxygen needed by other organisms. There are also vast garbage patches or islands floating around the world, particularly in the north Pacific. They're giant waste dumps full of plastic and other non-biodegradable waste that is harmful to marine life. In fact, sea turtles that eat jellyfish have been known to ingest plastic bags by accident which leads to their death.
What Can Be Done?
Supporting ocean conservation is a great way to help preserve our seas. These groups are equipped to advocate for the ocean, measure results, and educate everyone about why this is such an important cause to support.
SeaLife.gifts is dedicated to helping raise money to support many of the great charities who are working the tireless fight on the front lines. We contribute 5 - 25% of every purchase to helping preserve our oceans and the wonderful life within.