Every single person on our blue planet is connected to the Ocean. That means the choices we make can have a postive or negative effect on the Ocean.
Negative Human Effects
Virtually all Ocean habitats have been affected in some way via drilling or mining, dredging for aggregates for concrete and other building materials, destructive anchoring, removal of corals and land “reclamation”.
Since the industrial revolution, humans have increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to levels that have caused Ocean acidification and Ocean warming, amongst other climate related negative effects.
There have been many disastrous chemical spills at sea and from industry on land, affecting animals immediately via ingestion, or long term, in changes to reproduction cycles and other biological processes.
Sadly, oil spills still occur, coating beaches, sinking to smother Ocean plant life and killing a wide variety of birds, fish and sea mammals.
Research shows that underwater noise from construction, shipping and naval vessels significantly impacts the natural behaviour of cetaceans and many other marine species. This can be seen when mass beaching events occur or breeding success is diminished.
The world has woken up to the millions of tonnes of plastic that have entered the Ocean over the past 100 years. The impacts of this scourge will last a lot longer.
In many areas, factory fishing has destroyed local fish stocks, leaving too few adults to breed for the future.
Certain fishing practices not only contribute to overfishing of their target species, but also damage the environment by dredging the seabed or catching other species that are thrown back dead.
With increased urbanisation, tarmac and other manmade land surfaces contribute to petrol, diesel and other harmful chemicals easily flowing into rivers or directly into the Ocean.
The increase in the use of fertilisers for agriculture and warming ocean waters has contributed to eutrophication of the Ocean in certain areas of the world. This means there is less available dissolved oxygen for native sea life, which can negatively impact biological processes.
Deep Sea Mining
A new issue facing the Ocean is that of deep sea mining. The metals required in our laptops, phones and batteries can be found on the seafloor – but what damage will we do?
But all is not lost…
Despite the negativity surrounding the current state of our Ocean, the good news is that it’s not too late to turn things around. We just have to take positive steps now.
There are many ways that people around the world are having a positive effect on the Ocean every day…
Plastic microbeads in beauty products have been banned, ensuring tiny pieces of plastic can’t enter the Ocean food chain.
More businesses are becoming involved in circular economy models – this means that more materials are reused, shared, repaired, refurbished, remanufactured and recycled; thereby creating a closed system and minimising the use of new resources.
UN Ocean Decade
The United Nations have declared that the next decade will focus on Ocean Science and ecosystem restoration. Great news for a joined up global effort to protect the Ocean.
Sustainable Development Goals
The global Sustainable Development Goals will protect nature, especially goal 14 “Life Below Water”.
Marine Protected Areas
Increasing the protection of the Ocean via the designation of specially protected areas has had positive impacts on habitats and fish stocks in many locations.
Banning single use plastics
Many countries have taken steps to ban single use plastic items like straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds.
Meat free Monday
The growth of the Meat Free Monday movement is great for our Ocean.
There is a shift in voting patterns, with more voters choosing to vote for parties with the better green and blue credentials.
The Marine Stewardship Council report that in 2019 sales of MSC certified sustainable seafood reached one million tonnes for the first time and demand for sustainable fish was on the increase.
We can all be conservationists, and many people are doing their bit at home to protect the Ocean.
Ocean habitat restoration
Around the world, many projects are now seeking to restore marine habitats, such as mangrove and seagrass.