71% of the Earth’s surface
97% of the Earth’s water
99% of the living space on the planet
Home to one of the first life forms on the Blue Planet
And yet today this blue treasure stands at the brink of perishing,
Thanks to the indiscriminate exploitation of blue waters by humans
Like every realm on this planet, the oceans too stand threatened today. Incessant greed and propensity to commercialize everything for monetary and materialistic gains is central to human nature, and one of the factors which has spelt doomsday for our natural counterparts. Since decades together, we have successfully extracted much more than we ideally should have, and continue to do so. Did you know that the annual gross marine product i.e. equating the marine output to a country’s GDP will make the oceans the 7th largest economy in the world? Here is a deep dive into what this means:
|Direct output from the ocean in the form of marine fisheries, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass etc.|
|USD 6.9 trillion|
|Marine trade and transport in the form of shipping lines||USD 5.2 trillion|
|Productive coastline||USD 7.8 trillion|
|Carbon Absorption||USD 4.3 trillion|
Source: Reviving the Ocean Economy: The Case for Action 2015
Despite this economic value which we humans aim to exploit for our own purposes, we seldom pay much attention to the oceans and seas from a caring standpoint. The high seas form 43% of the Earth’s surface, yet only about ~1% of that area is under protection. On the other hand, land accounts for ~28% of the Earth’s surface, and a substantial 12.7% of it is under protection. Maybe this is due to the fact that we humans are land dwellers, and consider the waters to be outside territories, not to be taken care of? It is high time we wake up to the reality of how oceans and human wellbeing are interlinked closely.
How oceans impact humans
- The ocean regulates some of our life-giving elements. It controls temperature fluctuations, generates about half the oxygen we breathe, absorbs carbon dioxide, and is the lifeblood of all living organisms, including us humans.
- The ocean provides one-sixth of all the protein that the human species consume. Being at the top of the ecosystem, many human communities depend on oceans for food. Bio magnification of pollutants as it makes its way up the food chain is likely to create health problems in humans.
- Harbours some of the unique species, which offers a wealth of unique experiences in the form of allied activities like tourism. Here are some fascinating marine facts:
- Life began in the seas 3.1 billion to 3.4 billion years ago!
- The largest mammal, the blue whale, has a heart the size of a small car!
- Green turtles are able to migrate about 1400 miles to lay their eggs!
Unrestricted human activities such as coral reef destruction, oil spills, excessive fishing, garbage dumping etc. are posing a threat to the oceans and thereby to us.
So how do you and I protect oceans?
Protecting oceans may seem far-fetched for common people in daily lives, especially for those who do not stay near the seas. The fact is that most of ocean pollution is caused by run-off from land. Hence we have quite a lot of control on the state of the ocean, by controlling our daily existential habits. Here are a few that you and I can incorporate without much effort, but with a bit of thought and concern.
- Use fewer plastic: This may seem a no-brainer, but reducing plastic usage actually helps. Let’s put this in perspective- More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year, moreover 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away. (https://www.plasticoceans.org/the-facts/ ). Simple measures like carrying cloth bags, using non-disposable storage containers and reusable water bottles can help reduce plastic consumption and hence its demand.
- Sustainable seafood choices: Seafood is a staple diet for many communities, but there is a safe and sustainable way to approach seafood consumption. Many of these practices are embedded in Indian traditions, for example traditional fishing is generally not done during the monsoon which is the breeding season of most fish. This prevents depletion of the fish source, and thereby sustainable living.
- Say no to marine products: Whether it is the tortoise shell pendant you really adore, or coral reef showpiece you would like to buy to deck up your home. Make sure you say no to these, not only is it illegal but a direct exploitation of the marine ecosystem.
- Take part in beach clean-ups: Many NGOs and Marine Coastguard associations organize beach-clean-up activities from time to time. Dedicating time and effort to maintain a clean and sparkling beach is a great way to give back to society.
- Travel responsibly: When indulging in marine activities like kayaking, scuba diving or snorkelling, or even a beach visit, live the “leave no trace behind” philosophy. Look for eco-friendly options.
- Reduce carbon footprint: Reduce energy consumption through simple day to day measures like switching off lights and fans, and turning the AC on auto-sleep. Energy efficiency is directly linked with all forms of pollution.
Even the slightest positive change taken up by a large population can make a world of difference to our oceans, and to us. So the next time you enjoy the cool sea breeze or a beach-side luxurious vacation, remember to do your bit in preserving this blue-beauty for our future generations. Spread the word and make a lasting difference!