Why the ocean is so important

Our oceans are under threat, there’s no doubt about it. But what will happen if we don’t manage to save them?

Today marks another awareness day in the environmental calendar; World Oceans Day.

Intended as a day of global ocean celebration and ‘collaboration for a better future’, the focus this year is on preventing plastic pollution and finding solutions to clean up our seas.

But, what will happen if we don’t?

Recently, author Margaret Atwood told a conference in London that humanity’s future is linked to the survival of the ocean.

‘If the ocean dies; end of us’, she said.

Sounds drastic, but it could be true.

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Covering about 72% of the Earth and supplying half its oxygen (National Geographic), the seas are our life support system. So it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if we keep pumping them full of plastic, engaging in unsustainable fishing practices, and refusing to clamp down on the shark finning and whaling industries, we could lose our most important asset. And kill ourselves in the process.

So for World Ocean Day, I’ve tried to compile a short list to remind everyone why we should all take responsibility for the survival of our seas; and just why they’re so damn brilliant.

  • Asides from providing us with oxygen, the ocean helps to regulate our climate by absorbing, storing and releasing CO2 and producing oxygen

 

  • The seas are hugely diverse supporting the greatest abundance of life on our planet, despite the fact that many areas have been left untouched and unexplored. It’s actually thought that we know more about the surface of the moon or Mars than the sea.

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  • For more than a billion people, the ocean is their primary source of protein – with fish making up the essence of their diets

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  • More than 60% of the world’s population lives on or near the coast. The ocean provides incomes, recreation, beauty, escape, and ongoing scientific discoveries lead to new medications and foods.

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  • The ocean, as a wide expanse of water, has been scientifically proven to calm stressed minds and improve our moods. The sound of the waves relaxes us. WHy else did you think that well-being retreats were either in a forest, or by the coast?

I’ve always loved the ocean – I’ve lived by the coast since I was a baby (barring 3 years inland for University) and I feel like it’s in my blood. I’m happier when I’m near the ocean.

So it’s mad to me that despite the fact that our oceans account for almost three quarters of our planet, less than 2% of the seas are protected.

This is (hopefully) getting better with organisations like Sea Shepherd reiterating the need for protected marine sites, patrolling our seas and enforcing laws in otherwise unmonitored areas.

But it’s mad, isn’t it, that something which basically supports our lives is left unprotected?

Madder still, perhaps, that it needs protecting in the first place.

The ocean is at tipping point. According to oceanographer Sylvia Earle, our actions over the next century will determine the state of the ocean for the next 10,000 years. If we don’t change things now, it may be too late.

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