The ocean spans over 71 % of our planet and it plunges to depths of 36,201 feet. Over 3.5 billion people depend on the oceans for their primary food supply, but it is not a bottomless resource.
Ocean health is in danger, and in dire need of our attention. Studies are surfacing at an alarming rate, and they all concur: Our water planet is in trouble. Overfishing, acidification, immense swirling garbage patches, poaching and multiple other insults are turning our once brimming oceans into barren waters.
Modern technology can help us. We can leverage new information to dive deeper and learn more about oceans than we ever could before. This same sophistication has also optimized fishing technology, but at what cost? We now have floating factories that harvest fish with such precision that they leave nothing but refuse in their wake. If we harvest everything, where will we find the next generation of marine life?
Damage to our air, forests, and wildlife are visible, debatable. Over 90% of ocean damage is invisible. Because oceans remain largely unexplored only a handful of humans can stand witness to both the beauty and the tragedy that lies beneath the waves. We must recognize these limits to our valuable resource, or nothing will remain.
As we shift our attention to Copenhagen and to the issue of Global Warming, we should consider the 71% of the planet that lies unseen. The increased CO2 levels in our atmosphere are causing our oceans to become more acidic. If we allow this trend to continue, the oceans will soon become inhospitable to most life.
Plastic and excess packaging is also beginning to take its toll on the sea. “Biodegradable plastics” break down into smaller pieces, even to large molecules, but then the synthetic material floats in the ocean, unable to join the carbon cycle of life. This material is accumulating in the center of our oceans, known as gyres, most notably in the North Pacific. The plastic particles mimic estrogen and have begun to work their way up the food chain as small marine animals ingest them. Subsequently, larger fish that have fed on a diet high in these plastics are finding their way to market.
As our fishing methods have advanced and as global demand has increased, we have fished our oceans to the brink. Fisheries along the California Coast are closing. Cod in the North Atlantic are gone. Unfortunately, these are only two of the many worldwide scenarios. Orphaned longlines, uncontrolled poaching even in the few protected areas we have set aside, trawling that rips up the entire ocean floor for the harvest of a few shrimp—this is all irresponsible behavior. If we continue with our current practices, we may not be affected in our lifetime. Our children, however, will look back at this generation and blame us for mass extinction, global starvation, and upheaval.
Without healthy oceans, our entire planet will become sick. The ocean will continue to decline if we do not do something. We need to act now, or the oceans we know today will cease to exist tomorrow.