We land-dwellers don’t usually consider the importance of marine ecosystems in our day-to-day lives, understandably. The times we usually think about the ocean are when we are on our summer vacations to the shore. In reality, the ways we are connected to marine life are closer than we may think.
The ocean affects our global temperature, supplies us with food, gives us ways of transportation, produces over half of the world’s oxygen, and regulates climate change. Humans also have major impacts on the ocean, though unfortunately, they aren’t comparable to what the ocean does for us. Human activities over the last hundred years have significantly damaged marine life, and the actions we take in our daily lives
can have detrimental effects on our ocean’s ecosystems. Aside from what the ocean can do for humans, the ocean is worth protecting for its intrinsic value, the beauty it brings to this world, and its ability to reduce the effects of climate change.
The amount of biodiversity the ocean holds is astounding. Because life arose in the ocean 3.5 billion years ago, marine life had a lot of time to evolve and adapt, and scientists estimate that there are 2 million animals species living in the ocean with only 230,000 identified. It contains the largest mammals in the world and is filled with photosynthetic phytoplankton that are the basis of the food web and produce half of the earth’s oxygen. It was once believed that the bottom of the ocean was unfit for any kind of life, but it turns out that there is life inhabiting the most extreme conditions like deep-sea hydrothermal vents. The biodiversity numbers of the ocean can give us clues about climate change as well. When biodiversity is flourishing and marine life is growing in numbers, it indicates a healthy ocean with the ideal conditions to support many forms of life. Devastatingly enough, the ocean’s biodiversity is dropping at an alarming rate, and it is estimated that 50% of marine species were lost between 1970 and 2012.
These disturbing numbers are indicative of the growing pollution and other human-caused changes in the ocean. As the biodiversity numbers continue to drop, it is important to appreciate our marine wildlife and to practice habits that can reduce our impact on the ocean.
Humans all around the world are dependent on the resources the ocean offers us. 3.5 billion people rely on seafood as their primary source of food and the demand is continuing to rise. Fishing and fishing companies are sources of financial support for the world’s poorest communities, and many of them depend on it for their survival and to support their family. Because of the resources that come from the ocean, human settlements have lived near the coast for hundreds of years to take advantage of what the ocean has to offer.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 60 million people work in the fishing industry and the majority of them are in developing countries working in small-scale businesses. Unfortunately, as the demand for seafood continues to rise, the overexploitation and depletion of ocean resources continue to be a problem. The demand for seafood and ocean resources is becoming more prominent, and we must find ways to continue to provide for poor communities while protecting marine life populations.
We humans can make small changes that can help the ocean’s marine life. Many ocean organizations are helping marine life, including Oceana, The Ocean Conservancy, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and many more. Both Oceana and The Ocean Conservancy have resources on their website that make it easy to contact our representatives and lawmakers about defending the ocean.
When buying seafood products, check to see if they have a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) label, as they ensure that the seafood products came from sustainable sources that do not exploit marine populations. Continue to appreciate the serenity of the ocean and the animals that live in the salty water. Continue to watch the gulls search for fish and continue to admire the glorious sunsets over the ocean, and think about all of the life that is thriving under that sunset.