Roughly 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans, containing about 97 percent of all the water on the planet, but this vast resource is in peril from a single threat—thoughtless humans.
Pollution, overfishing, illegal fishing, inadequate management, habitat loss, climate change and manmade disasters are killing ocean species and threatening fragile aquatic ecosystems.
According to United Nations’ statistics, although some 13% of the world’s land environments are protected in some way, less than 1% of global marine areas are under protection, which leaves the Earth’s waters exposed and vulnerable to ongoing threats.
In 2010, a disastrous oil spill poured more than 120 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, putting 4,000 miles of coastline and an entire ecosystem at risk. In early 2011, radiation from a tsunami-crippled nuclear plant in Japan spilled into the Pacific, endangering coastal populations and sea life.
Meanwhile, scientists estimate that that 75% of global fisheries are already fully utilized or over-utilized. Some 90% of large marine predators have already vanished due to unsustainable fishing. Steps must be taken to protect oceans from abuse, or massive extinctions could occur by 2050.
To address these problems, a group called the Ocean Realm Society has been conducting an annual “State of the Oceans Summit” (SOS), gathering ocean experts and professionals from around the world to work on solutions to environmental issues in an unbiased manner.
Their goal is to keep the oceans healthy by briefing the public, industry and policymakers of actions that can restore ocean wellness.
Specific areas that require action on a global scale include overfishing and by-catch, the dumping of toxic pollutants, and the destruction of natural reefs.
Also of critical importance is the abatement of water temperature increases caused by climate change, along with acidification due to increased carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere.
There are no simple answers to these challenges, but raising the general level of concern may help. To bring awareness to the importance of our oceans and the dangers they face, the U.N. instituted World Oceans Day in 2008.
Every year on June 8th, activities emphasize how essential the world’s waters are to food security as well as the health and survival of all life on Earth. To paraphrase W.H. Auden: “Although thousands live without love, nobody lives without water.”
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