The Ocean and Man

Save the oceans

How important is the ocean to man?

About 71 percent of our planet earth is covered by (made up of) water?

This water is available in the oceans, the atmosphere (as water vapour), in rivers, in lakes, in the soil, in animals, plants, glaciers etc.

Over 96% of all the earth’s water (from all sources combined), is held by the oceans and is hence saline

The Oceans produce half the oxygen we breathe

The oceans absorb 30% of CO₂ (carbon dioxide) emissions (that’s huge!)

A world of natural resources endowment abound in the ocean, contributing to poverty eradication by providing employment to over three billion people.

Kimberley Vosburgh (2015)

The Ocean is thus so rich that it is said to be worth much more than the economy of most nations of the world by GDP.

This makes the oceans –

Nature’s primary mechanism for regulating the world’s climate

Very vital to the world’s food security

The world’s bank of vast biodiversity

The earth’s major source of water and oxygen for respiration

One of earth’s major purifier of the atmosphere

These resources endowment of the oceans have been, and are still being eseriously threatened by man’s activities. That’s where we come in – you and I.

Man, from the onset of his arrival on the scene has both directly and indirectly exploited the ocean’s wealth. That in itself is no threat, when one considers that nature presented these resources to man (as well as other creatures) for comfort / balance.

The problem begins where man’s strict adherence to sustainable exploitation and management ends. Unsustainable exploitation of the oceans by man happens in the following ways.

Outright overfishing

Use of illegal and destructive fishing practices.

Inadequacy of protected areas of the oceans

Unconventional mining practices, destroying coral reefs and polluting the ocean’s waters.

Maybe more…

Sustainable development goal (SDG) 14 aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

While it is true that not all men directly exploit the oceans and hence may not have been responsible for the practices termed unsustainable as listed above, the following are unsustainable management practices that tell on the ocean’s well being, for some of which every man is a stake holder.

Global warming
The ocean’s waters have experienced a remarkable change (rise) in temperature in recent times. This is directly a result of culminated effects of a wide variety of man’s activities. Global warming is largely caused by increasing levels of CO₂ emissions on planet earth. CO₂ is produced from respiration, and in heavier concentrations from burning of fossil fuels.

Yet, man’s habits continually evolve towards increasing activities that aggravate the effects of rising CO₂ concentrations on earth. Activities such as deforestation, use of plastic packaging, bush burning use of fossil fueled machines have continually led man into forsaking the consequences of increasing his dear planet’s ambient temperature.

Millions of tons of wastes are disposed of in the oceans all over the world. Non biodegradable wastes such as plastic materials may destroy the ocean’s physical features or suffocate aquatic life.

It is also important to bring to the average man’s remembrance, that remains and excesses of chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers etc.) which are used all around the world by man, eventually find their way into the oceans via run off.
Exploitation of the ocean’s wealth of crude oil and mineral deposits, oils spills from shipping activities also greatly pollute the ocean’s waters.

Ocean acidification
Apart from raising temperatures, carbon dioxide also dissolves in the ocean’s water to form carbonic acid. This carbonic acid reduces water pH to levels that are detrimental to the well being of aquatic life. Ocean acidification also contributes to damaging the ocean’s coral reefs. Coral reefs are home to a significant population of aquatic life.

Many have come to terms with the importance of trees to the survival of man. It is known that trees produce oxygen required for man’s (like other animals) respiration and helps to purify the atmosphere by removing carbon dioxide.

However, the trees do not beat the ocean to this function. The oceans are actually the world’s largest producer of oxygen and purifier of the atmosphere, absorbing carbon dioxide to maintain balance in the ecosystem.
Trees thus serve an indispensable role in helping the oceans remain that pivotal mechanism for maintaining nature’s balance. More CO₂ used up by the trees translate to less CO₂ left behind for the oceans to deal with.

Unfortunately rather, nature has seen many more trees destroyed in recent years than the ecosystem’s well being can ignore. A number of individuals and organisations currently promote intervention programs to remedy the menace associated with deforestation and its looming worse tendencies. Advocacy for sustainable ocean management is a number of steps further in the same direction.

You may also want to read – Ethiopia Plants 350 Million Trees in 12 Hours, Smashing World Record

Man’s activities in essence, though mainly terrestrial, go a long way to influence the well being of the oceans. The ocean’s well being, ironically in turn, determines how well the human race fares. Maybe it is then right to say that man’s approach to managing the ocean is exactly “his” approach to managing “himself”.

Follow this column to catch up with subsequent articles that elaborate on some of the terms only mentioned here and which provide recommendations on what actions are recommended towards restoring the ocean’s wealth.

Leave a Reply