Ocean and Marine Habitats At Grave Risk
Unfortunately, in many areas of our planet, our oceans and marine habitats are heading for collapse. The reason for this is simple. The way that humans exploit coastal areas and the oceans and seas often destroy diversity, as well as their ability to provide for our needs. Many experts contend that climate change is making this worse. As stocks of fish plummet in number and coral reefs die, millions of people who are depending upon the ocean for their food and livelihood are at risk of losing their income and way of life.
Most people do not realize that the Earth’s oceans comprise an incredible 99% of the living space on the globe. And a mere 10% of that space has been explored by human beings. At least 90% of that 99% of living space is the deep sea – the dark, cold ocean depths that go down tens of thousands of feet.
Fascinating Facts About Marine Animals
Some of the most interesting occupants of the Earth’s marine habitat are:
- Crab: The teeth of this marine creature are actually in its stomach.
- Octopus: Has three hearts
- Seahorse: Eats 3,000 or more brine shrimp each day
- Sea turtle: They seem like they are crying when they are on land because salt that is absorbed from the ocean is excreted through the eyes
- Swordfish and marlin: The quickest fish in the sea; can reach up to 75 MPH in short bursts
- Jellyfish: Have existed for more than 650 million years. This means they predate both sharks and dinosaurs
- Shark: They attack 50 to 75 people every year with between eight and 12 deaths. On the other hand, humans kill between 20 and 100 million sharks per year
- Blue whale: The biggest animal on the planet ever; it exceeds the size of the biggest known dinosaur, and has a heart as big as a Volkswagen
Amazing Numbers of Marine Life
Just how many marine creatures are there? Scientists have classified and named as many as 1.5 million species. But many of these precious animals are endangered by the activities of man. Approximately 44% of toxic contaminants in the seas come from stream and river runoff polluted by humans. Also, air pollution is responsible for 33% of the toxic substances that are in oceans and coastal waters.
Worse, more oil gets into our oceans over year from leaking vehicles and other non-point sources than the amount of oil that was spilled by the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound, or even in the Gulf of Mexico during the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Endangered Marine Animals
The activities of humans have had enough of an impact on marine life habitat that many sea creatures are endangered, including:
- Bluefin tuna: The biggest thing that is threatening tuna is overfishing. Tuna are extremely popular in restaurants and grocery stores and this is causing a severe reduction in bluefin tuna populations.
- Sea turtle: Fishing gear is the biggest enemy of sea turtles. They also are losing habitat from human development and climate change.
- Gray whale: Many centuries of overfishing wiped out one population and left the other seriously endangered.
- Coral: Acidification of the ocean and commercial fishing by bottom trawling are the major threats today.
- Vaquita: These fish are greatly threatened by gill nets to catch fish; they are often killed by accident when fishermen are catching other fish
The problems that are affecting so many marine animals and our oceans are bad news for the more than three billion people in the world who rely upon marine and inland fisheries as a major part of their diet, as well as the 520 million or so people who are dependent upon activities related to fishing for their food and income.
Oceans Are Warmer and Higher in Acidity
The typical sea surface temperature has risen over the last five decades, which is partially due to human burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. The warmer ocean is felt through the many changes in patterns of weather, the frequency of extreme weather events and the rise of the sea level. More intense storms are boosting the energy of winds and waves in some areas, and this is causing more stress on delicate coastal ecosystems. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, the speed of these changes has never been seen in the last 65 million years. Changes are being seen in every part of the ocean and marine habitat, with some marine life moving to higher latitudes as warming trends accelerate.
These changes in temperature and acidity are also changing important marine life history events, such as the blooms of plankton, as well as the spawning and migratory actions of fish, turtles and invertebrates.
Coral Reefs Expected to Vanish by 2050
Just how bad are the changes occuring in our oceans and seas? Some experts contend that coral reefs, which are the most diverse marine ecosystem, will be gone by 2050. This projection shows the huge changes that are probably going to happen as humans continue to warm and acidify the vital surface layers of the oceans. Coral reefs are essential to provide goods and services to fisheries, and are nurseries for countless vital organisms. Coral reefs also offer critical coastal protection and income to hundreds of millions of people who live along the tropical coastlines of the world.
Hopefully, this infographic is a reminder of the great need for humankind to do a much better job to protect our marine life habitat and the millions of extraordinary creatures that live there. So much is at stake for these creatures and for all of humanity.
- Ocean Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://wwf.panda.org/our_work/oceans/ocean_risk/