Image Credit:Shutterstock/Don Pablo
The ocean is a vital part of the planets ecosystem and is crucial for our survival. Over the course of history the ocean remains one of the most unexplored and unknown parts of our world. This distinct lack of knowledge has led us to become ignorant and uninterested in the state of our seas.
Underfunding of Oceanic Research
This can be easily seen in the United States’ budget for ocean exploration in contrast to NASA’s budget for space exploration. In 2016 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for ocean exploration was given a mere $28 million, however in the same year, NASA was allowed an astonishing $4.4 billion for their research.
Given that the Earth is home for humanity and the only known place where life exists, this is quite astonishing. It is known that the ocean is 71% of the Earth’s surface not only supplies 50% of the oxygen in the atmosphere but also 97% of all the water. In addition to this, fish supply one billion people with their main source of protein.
Role of Humans in Ocean Acidification
Despite these facts, historically humanities treatment of its oceans has caused devastating effects to the environment and the creatures that live there. A recent study has shown that 90% of the oceans apex predators have become extinct while the species at the bottom of the food chain have been negatively impacted by ocean acidification due to CO2 emissions. Coral bleaching events are becoming more frequent and it is thought that 90% of the worlds coral reefs will be dead within this century.
Humans are being affected as well. Due to overfishing and climate change, many commercial fisheries have gone out of business. Coastal towns are becoming flooded as sea levels are rise, causing destruction to homes and businesses along the worlds coast lines.
Yet, the oceans are continued to be under threat by human activity. The public are aware of the “island of trash” that floats in the ocean. It is now the size of Texas, the plastic and waste that is poured into the oceans kill the wildlife that ingests or become entangled by them. Furthermore, new threats emerge constantly. An example of this is the proposal by the National Marine Fisheries Service which would allow numerous industrial seismic air gun surveys to be used for oil and gas exploration on the East coast of the U.S. It is known that these air guns would impact a wide range of species including the most endangered great whale on the planet, the North Atlantic Right Whale. Even with this information, the Trump administration has revived the proposal.
The ocean is being emptied at an alarming rate and at the same time, they are being filled with plastic, pollution and waste. While there are no precise studies on the death of our oceans due to the vastness of the area as well as the underfunding of oceanic research teams, many marine scientists have warned that humanity will enter the point of no return within ten years.
Measures to Protect and Save the Oceans
The time to act is now. Around the globe, many nations outside of the USA have large-scale marine protected areas that stop overfishing to allow wildlife to recover. A joint effort for climate change has been the forefront of much discussion and many volunteers are stepping up to clean up the oceans for future generations to enjoy. In the USA, an improvement in fishery laws in 2006 have allowed stock to recuperate while certain states have begun to implement nearshore ocean planning and protection.
With funding becoming increasingly difficult to acquire, many have relied on philanthropists and ocean enthusiasts to clean up. However, with time running out, it is everyone’s responsibility to save our oceans.