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About Collapsing Seas
Oceans cover 70% of the planet’s surface. About 97% of the water on Earth can be found in the ocean. Of the small percent that’s not in the ocean, around 2% is frozen up in ice caps and glaciers. Freshwater makes up only 1% of Earth. And there’s a tiny fraction of water in the atmosphere that exists as water vapor.
The Biggest Threats to the Ocean
There are many threats to the ocean currently, including:
1. Unsustainable Fishing
About 90% of the fisheries in the world are already totally overfished or exploited, while each year, there are billions of unwanted fish dying needlessly. The biggest threat to ocean life and habitats is unsustainable fishing, not to mention the food security and livelihoods of over a billion individuals.
There are many pollutants on land that find their way eventually into the ocean or are dumped there deliberately, such as:
- Industrial chemicals
Some enters from the atmosphere and water run-off. This pollution is, not surprisingly, harming the whole marine food chain, including humans.
3. Fish Farming
Fish farming is frequently touted as helping with the decline of wild fish stocks. But often, the farming of shellfish and fish is really hurting wild fish, through things like:
- Escaped farmed fish
- Pollution farms discharge
- The need to catch wild fish as feed
- Increased parasite loads
4. Climate Change
Various things are already having a big impact on the oceans, including:
- Changing species distributions
- Coral bleaching
- Climate change
- Global warming
- Rising sea levels
There needs to be strategies for dealing with these phenomena and for decreasing other pressures on marine habitats that are already stressed by increasing water levels and temperatures.
You’ll find single-use plastic all over the place from bags to soda bottles to coffee cups and food packaging and straws and lids. It’s been known for decades recycling is a disposable product solution, but even so, there is still 90% of non-recycled plastic globally. And, a huge quantity of it ends up in the oceans. Without urgent and significant change, the next generation will end up not with an ocean, but instead with a garbage dump that’s not fit for marine life.
6. Factory Fishing
Giant factory ships use innovative equipment to find and vacuum whole schools of fish out of the water.
7. Tourism & Development
Beaches aren’t just favorite holiday destinations, but also favorite places to live. Worldwide, coastlines have been turned into tourist developments and new housing steadily. The increase in human presence is certainly affecting marine life.
8. Commercial Whaling
The practice of commercial whaling was so badly uncontrolled for so long, it drove many whale species to the brink of extinction. The North Atlantic right whale in the U.S., is down to around 350 remaining. The Antarctic blue whales are less than 1% of their initial population and the grey whale populations of the West Pacific are the most endangered of the great whales of the world, getting close to the edge of extinction with only a tiny bit more than 100 left.
Tuna Population Decline
Tuna are impressive and remarkable wild animals. In fact, the Atlantic bluefin can weigh as much as 2000 lbs and reach 10 feet in length. Their specialized fins, shape and scales enable some tuna species to swim over 43 miles per hour.
These incredible marine animals are also an important part of millions of individual’s diets are are the most valuable fish commercially.
The endangered bluefin tuna makes up only 1% of the world’s catch. As strategies of catching tuna advances throughout the years, the management and conservation of tuna hasn’t evolved as rapidly. In fact, most tuna stocks are completely exploited, where there’s no room for fishery expansion, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and some are even overexploited, where there’s a stock collapse risk. Around 65% of tuna stocks are considered to be at a healthy abundance level, but there are still 13% considered overfished.
Threats to Coral Reefs
Around 109 countries’ coasts have coral reefs. Coral reefs are being destroyed in 90 of these countries by:
- Tourists breaking chunks of coral off
- Sewage and cruise ship anchors
- Commercial harvesting for tourist sale
Coral reefs are at risk by anthropogenic and natural threats. Anthropogenic means human impact or human influence. A lot of anthropogenic influences are causing the destruction and degradation of coral reefs which cause loss of:
- Essential food supplies
- Economic revenue
Combined with nature threats in the form of typhoons, storms and diseases, coral reefs struggle for their survival. Human disturbances make natural stressors worse. For example, the presence of disease might be greater in coral reefs stressed by the impact of humans like pollution and mechanical damage.
Natural disasters like earthquakes and storms occur periodically, devastating large coral reef areas. These natural events are more serious if the communities of reefs are weakened already by other impacts and algal overgrowth inhibits recovery because of a lack of grazing organisms that fishing removes.
Ocean Life Extinction
Trends were analyzed by a panel of scientists that showed ocean life at great risk of starting a phase of marine species extinction. There are three main factors that exist in the ocean today that show scientists that life on earth might go through another “massive extinction event” yet again. These three factors are:
- Global warming
- Ocean Acidification
- Anoxia (Lack of Oxygen)
The planet suffered its last major marine extinction event a little over 250 million years ago, but the planet is only decades away from suffering another one. Ocean acidification has been attributed as being the cause of most past extinctions and the same pattern is being followed with the current extinction, only this time the ocean’s acidity is growing much quicker than it did before. If the planet continues to experience this ocean acidification, there’s huge potential of most ocean life being wiped out, and consequently, land life too.
Freshwater and marine ecosystems are also facing big pressures. Around six billion tons of invertebrates and fish have been taken from the oceans worldwide since 1950. All worldwide major marine environments are facing plastic pollution, from surface waters and shorelines down to the ocean’s deepest parts, including the Mariana Trench all the way to the bottom.
Freshwater habitats like rivers, lakes, and wetlands are humans’ source of life, yet they’re also threatened the most, strongly impacted by many factors which include habitat modification, destruction and fragmentation, climate change, overfishing, invasive species, disease and pollution. And, the ocean’s current rapid CO2 absorption just may push it to its tipping point by the end of the century.