Generous oceans give us oxygen for breathing and take the carbon dioxide we produce. It’s not a fair trade, and it is not going to continue much longer if we do not take responsibility. There are 7 major problems the ocean experiences right now, and there are ways to help change the situation. Let’s consider them and form a lifelong habit of sticking to them every day.
1. Carbon Dioxide Pollution
Ocean waters are losing their natural pH balance, due to the carbon dioxide emissions, 30% of which end up dissolved in the water. And it’s again us, humans, who produce the great volumes of the harmful gas. In fact, the United States alone emits about 16% of the global amount of carbon dioxide. The gas dissolves in ocean waters, causing a reaction that produces carbonic acid. The acid, in its turn, disrupts the composition of ocean waters. It is known to cause reproduction issues in certain fish species and prevent marine animals from growing healthy shells.
What we can do to decrease carbon dioxide pollution:
- reduce our carbon footprint,
- explore alternative transportation,
- cut down on energy we use at home,
- travel by train rather than by plane.
2. Coral Bleaching
Corals gain their vivid color from the algae inhabiting it. When the water is too warm or polluted, corals suffer and force the algae out. But the trick is that they can’t recover on their own, without the algae. When corals suffer, so does the marine life – up to 25% of it depends on the health of corals they inhabit.
Want to see actual figures? In 2005 alone, about 50% of the corals in the Caribbean reefs ejected their algae and got bleached.
What we can do to prevent coral bleaching:
- reduce greenhouse gas emission.
3. Marine Pollution
We, humans, dump 9,500,000 tons of plastic into the ocean every year. Nowadays, it’s plastic that beachgoers find along the shore, not sea glass. There are garbage patches floating across the oceans, like the Pacific trash vortex – a concentration of microscopic pieces of plastics, chemicals, and other debris that stretches for thousands of miles. And as it doesn’t degrade that easily, garbage patches only grow larger with time.
What we can do to prevent marine pollution:
- cut down your use of plastic,
- help clean local beaches,
- support chemical-free farming,
- use and advocate for use of natural detergents,
- push for responsible ocean travel.
4. Marine Predator Population Decline
The balance of the underwater environment has been severely disturbed: over 90% of marine predators have been removed from their natural ecosystems. But it doesn’t make the oceans safer, no. Let’s consider a vivid example: in the early 2000s, the shark population inhabiting the coastal waters of North Carolina has been demolished. The absence of predators let their prey – the cownose ray – thrive and multiply up to a point when they ate up the entire scallop population in the area and caused a collapse in the traditional scallop-fishing industry of North Carolina.
What we can do to prevent marine predator population decline:
- stop interfering with natural processes that take place in the oceans,
- push for responsible fishing and anti-pollution,
- buy fish from local fishers, not large supermarket chains.
5. Rising Sea Surface Temperatures
Over the 20th century, the sea surface temperature rose by 0.18°F. What seems to be a slight change for people turns out to be a life-changing circumstance for bacteria and other forms of marine life. While some of them are forced to migrate, others enjoy an unusually favorable environment beyond their natural habitat and spread to regions where they threaten to disrupt the native life.
What we can do to lower the sea surface temperatures:
- reduce our carbon footprint,
- plant a tree—it will take in at least a little carbon dioxide,
- vote for a candidate who has reasonable climate views.
6. Sea Level Rise
Sea level is rising by 3 millimeters every year as a result of global warming – the ongoing process that makes glaciers and ice caps melt. The annual figures may not appear impressive, but if you add them up, you’ll realize that by 2100, the ocean will rise 39 inches higher than it was in 1990.
Sea level rise means that bigger areas and more households will be affected every year by floods and storm surges.
What we can do to prevent the rise of the sea level:
- cut greenhouse gas emissions,
- use water reasonably and responsibly.
Certain fish species are being removed from oceans entirely – a change too quick for the ecosystem to process. But nature is not the only victim here – in 1992, 40,000 workers lost their jobs because a cod species they used to fish for had been overfished. 60% of fish stocks are overfished now, and if we continue on the course, oceans will stop being home to any fish in 2050.
What we can do to stop overfishing:
- avoid eating popular species (e.g.: Bluefin tuna, Atlantic cod),
- learn what lesser-known seafood can be consumed.
The situation is dire, but there is still hope: humans have only explored 10% of the ocean. It’s time to be responsible, to take action, no matter how unimportant it seems on the global scale. There is a small chance we have not spoiled it all yet.