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Diving Deep: Unveiling the Top Threats to our Oceans

🐋 Diving Deep: Unveiling the Top Threats to our Oceans and the Best Collective Solutions to Preserve them for the Future


Our oceans are under threat like never before. The delicate balance of marine ecosystems is being disrupted by many factors, from climate change to pollution, plastics, and overfishing. Our oceans fulfill many vital functions including providing us with food and oxygen, as well as playing a central role in regulating Earth’s climate. Below we take a dive into some of the biggest threats facing the oceans and the actions we can take to make a difference.


Climate Change


Climate change is at the top of everyone's mind at the moment, it is the most pressing issue of our time with the highest temperatures recorded in history seen this week and the UN secretary general stating that ‘climate change is out of control’. The global ocean has absorbed 90% of the warming that has occurred in recent decades (climate.nasa.gov).


These rapidly rising sea temperatures are causing:


- Sea level rise (as warmer water expands)

- Coral reef bleaching - when corals bleach or go white it is a stress response and can lead to coral death: this loss of corals means a loss of vital habitats for countless marine species.

- Increased sea temperature also affects the frequency and intensity of storms which threaten coastal communities and exacerbate coastal erosion.

- faster loss of Earth’s ice sheets


Our world is changing by the day, and it's evident everywhere we look.


To combat the impact of climate change on our oceans, we have to change how we do things. Governments, businesses, and individuals must work together to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable energy work (for example solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower (from rivers) and tidal). Improving energy efficiency through means such as insulation or more effective heating and cooling systems such as air or ground source heat pumps are crucial steps to reduce the effects of climate change.


Overfishing


Overfishing is pushing many marine species to the brink of extinction and disrupting the delicate balance of our oceans' ecosystems. Large-scale commercial fishing operations, coupled with illegal and unregulated fishing practices, are depleting fish stocks at an alarming rate. This not only threatens the biodiversity of our oceans but also jeopardises the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on fishing for their income and sustenance.


There must be a balance between utilising our oceans for our consumption needs and managing our fish stocks sustainably. To address the issue of overfishing more sustainable fishing practices are required, such as setting catch limits and better policing of marine protected areas. Governments have recently agreed a Global Ocean Treaty which if properly enforced can help restore fish populations and ensure their long-term survival. Supporting small-scale and artisanal fisheries that employ sustainable practices is also important in promoting responsible fishing.


The biggest impact we can all make is to cut back on our consumption of fish. Less demand: less fishing. Switching to a plant-based or even eating significantly less fish can have a positive impact. By reducing our consumption of fish and incorporating more vegetables, legumes, and grains into our diet, we can help fish populations to recover.


Pollution



Land and ocean-based pollution pose a big threat to the health of our oceans. Plastic waste, chemicals, and oil spills are just a few examples of the pollutants that find their way into our oceans, wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems and marine life, disrupting food chains, and causing long-term potentially irreversible damage.



It is time to take major action to address ocean pollution. Governments need to implement and enforce stricter regulations to reduce the release of pollutants into the sea. Each of us can also play a role by reducing our use of single-use plastics, properly disposing of waste, using greener cleaning products in our home, participating in beach cleanup initiatives or supporting organisations that are working to protect the oceans. We interviewed Jack Egan a few months back, he works with the Connecticut Surfriders Association who are striving to create awareness about the issue of plastic in our seas and oceans. Read his interview HERE.


Investing in research and innovation to develop sustainable alternatives to harmful substances is also key in tackling ocean pollution. There are good emerging alternatives to plastic such as plastic made from seaweed. See more from the Notpla company.




Losing our Coral Reefs


Coral reefs are often referred to as the rainforests of the sea or biodiversity hotspots (source: nhm.ac.uk), but they are under pressure. We have lost 50% of coral reefs since the late 1950’s. Rising sea temperatures, increasing ocean acidification caused by rising carbon dioxide in the air (it gets absorbed by the sea), pollution, overfishing, and destructive fishing practices are all contributing to the rapid loss of reefs worldwide. This not only threatens the survival of marine species but also impacts coastal communities that rely on them for food and income. While tropical coral reefs are perhaps best known, more than half of the world’s coral species live in cold and deep dark parts of the ocean (source: Aaron Lim, Irish times, 2021).


Coral Reef Restoration and Protection


There has been a movement to invest in coral reef restoration projects and the promotion of sustainable tourism practices - which help preserve these vital and unique ecosystems. In addition, Hawaii, Palau, Virgin Islands are among the places that have banned chemical sunscreen products containing toxic products such as oxybenzone and octinoxate since 2020. These harmful chemicals can bleach coral reefs, disrupt the growth and development of marine life, and even cause coral death. A simple and important way we can all make a difference is to choose a reef-safe mineral sunscreen (containing non-nano zinc instead) that protects our health, the coral reefs and the global ocean.


“Despite the challenges, there is hope for the future of our oceans.”


Greenpeace UK


Innovations:


Innovative technologies are being developed to combat ocean pollution and clean up our oceans. From advanced waste collection systems to better materials, these innovations can help reduce the amount of plastic waste in the oceans.


The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organisation developing and scaling technologies to rid the oceans of plastic. Their floating systems are designed to capture plastics ranging from small pieces, just millimeters in size, up to large debris, including massive, discarded fishing nets (ghost nets), which can be tens of metres wide.


Modeling predicts they will need at least 10 full-size systems to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Ocean Cleanup, perhaps somewhat optimistically, estimates they will be able to remove 90% of floating ocean plastic by 2040.


Education in Schools


As part of Green Friday 4 Future’s education programme on oceans we sent out a mail out to all primary and secondary schools in Ireland with a link to worksheets and a video from Surfriders about taking part in a beach clean up. We got a wonderful response from many schools and were encouraged that teachers, students, and parents would be thinking about their summer holidays this year and more likely to leave no trace where they go, pick up where they can, and talk to others about what they have learned.


If you have enjoyed reading this article, why not share it with someone you think would be interested, or tell a friend about a new fact you learned? You can initiate change by spreading your knowledge and who knows what that change can inspire someone else to do.


There are many people taking action to create positive change for the environment. Join the movement!


Have a great weekend!


The Green Fridays 4 Future Team

www.greenfridays4future.com


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