No matter where we live, the ocean influences all of us. In turn our actions, with over 7 billion of us, add up to influence the ocean.
The ocean provides us with basics, like oxygen and fresh water, and the ocean feeds us. Even if we do not eat seafood, fishmeal is used to feed poultry and pork as well as to organically fertilize crops for millennia.
The ocean allows humans to trade, and gives many of us jobs in fisheries, trade, shipping, tourism and travel.
The ocean also is a source of minerals, energy resources, and medicines.
It provides us with the opportunity for ocean sports and activities. It can help to inspire people, like a muse, or to help people relax, like a spa.
Marine tourism has brought people from all around the world into a close interaction with the ocean.
The ocean is used in almost all aspects of our daily lives.
Much of our global population lives in or closer to coastal areas. These concentrations of people make the need to restore and protect adjacent ecosystems even more important. We are starting to understand more about the protection that natural systems provide us, from marine hazards like rising sea levels, cyclones, hurricanes, storm surges and tsunamis.
The reconstruction of wetland habitats, dam removal, and inclusion of local knowledge in decision-making is being tested and, with early results, looks promising. People are collaborating to include natural systems’ needs in constructed coastline design, giving us a chance to improve how we harden, dredge, and construct harbour and ports.
It is easy to forget in our day to day lives that we are not separate from nature but a part of it. With a continuously growing human population, the need for a sustainable future is increasingly prominent.
Lets investigate some of the key negative impacts that humans are having on the ocean. We already discussed ocean acidification caused by the rampant burning of fossil fuels. There are some forms of pollution that humans cause but cannot see.
With the warming of the water, the sea ice is melting at a consistent rate over the past few years. While this is damaging for the animals such as walrus and polar bears that rely on sea ice for their survival, it is helpful to humans. Less sea ice means that travel is easier for boats through the Arctic, this was not previously possible. This poses a new challenge for Arctic marine life: Noise Pollution
Noise pollution is when we release excess or loud noises into the water. Noise pollution disrupts communication between animals, who rely on communication to find each other in the dark waters. This is especially true for Beluga Whales, who rely on acoustic sounds to communicate between mother and calves.
Noise pollution can also cause physical hearing damage. Believe it or not, fish do have ears. And sound is much louder through the water than it is on land. Noise pollution may be invisible but it can still be very dangerous.
What sort of solutions can you think of to help reduce noise pollution and help Arctic animals? Perhaps you could design a new silent boat engine. Or you could discover what areas belugas inhabit most so laws can be created to protect those areas from boat traffic. The solutions are possible but more research and decisive action is needed to help make a difference.
It starts with you, in your daily life.
One of the ways you can make a difference in your daily life is to choose sustainable food options. Sustainable means taking what you need but leaving enough of the resource for future generations to meet their needs.
A common problem seen today is over fishing or unsustainable fishing practices. Many ocean organisms are falling victim to by-catch, where they are accidentally caught by unsustainable fishing methods like bottom trawling. Sustainable fishing means using methods that take only the fish you are intending to catch as well as only taking what we need and leaving organisms in the ocean to maintain the populations in the wild so we can continue to put fish on our plates. Canada, you can look at the Ocean Wise Sustainable Seafood program. Look for the Ocean Wise symbol to ensure you are eating substantially caught seafood.
As a land species, we have been a bit slow grasping how important the ocean is to our lives and how much our activities influence the ocean. Even though it may feel removed and unconnected to our daily lives, the ocean affects us all. Water runs downhill. Whatever we put into our drain makes it’s way towards to ocean, as what we put into the air.
The more we learn about how the ocean is connected, the more we are grappling with what we need to know and do to secure a sustainable future. A future that relies on the ocean. We all have a responsibility to take care of the ocean, it’s life and systems, which make all life on Earth possible.
With this knowledge, humans can work together to achieve the United Nations Sustainability Goals. With our understanding of the ocean, we can work towards the goals:
14.1 By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
14.2 By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, including by strengthening their resilience, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans
14.3 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels
14.4 By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
14.5 By 2020, conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information
14.6 By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation
14.7 By 2030, increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism
14.A Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, taking into account the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Criteria and Guidelines on the Transfer of Marine Technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries, in particular small island developing States and least developed countries
14.B Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets
14.C Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in UNCLOS, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of The Future We Want
Posted January 17, 2022 by Meighan Makarchuk