The World’s Oceans are in Big Trouble – But We Can Help

Posted by: Elizabeth Maksymonko

Oceans have been in big trouble for a while now, but often the problems haven’t received that attention that they deserve. That’s probably because it’s pretty hard to understand the damage that is being done to the oceans unless you see it first hand, and many people only see the ocean from the comfort of a beach, at most. However, recently people have started to sit up and pay attention as startling new reports on the ocean’s plight have gained international attention.

There was the study by the World Resources Institute that found all of the world’s coral reefs could be gone by 2050. Then it was found that melting sea ice opened up a passageway that allows Pacific marine species to cross into the Atlantic, with unknown results. Now, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) has put out a new report that outlines our worst fears: a mass marine extinction event is imminent if we don’t work to improve the oceans’ health right now.

In this report, an international panel of scientists found that ocean degradation is occurring much faster than anyone predicted, and that if that a few main issues aren’t addressed quickly, a mass extinction of marine life could take place in the next few decades. The scientists explain that this loss could be comparable to the other 5 great extinctions in prehistory. The three main factors that are causing this panic are an increase of hypoxia (low oxygen) and anoxia (lack of oxygen), warming and acidification. These problems are exacerbated by human activities, and the report explains that swift action is needed to begin to mitigate the issues before it’s too late. “We now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation,” the report explained.

So now, it is extremely important that we don’t turn a blind eye to the plight of the oceans, as many have in years past. Dr. Alex Rogers, Scientific Director of IPSO, stated, “The findings are shocking. As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean the implications became far worse than we had individually realized. This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, our children’s and generations beyond that.”

So how did we get ourselves into this mess? As the report explains, overfishing has cut some fish populations by more than 90%, throwing off the entire delicate balance of the ocean. Flame-retardant chemicals and detergents, along with many other pollutants, are absorbed into particles of plastic pollution that litter the ocean. These toxic materials are then often eaten by many creatures, from sea turtles to birds.  The problems don’t end there, though – many indirect effects, like carbon dioxide emissions, contributes to warming and acidification of the oceans.

The IPSO report issued a number of recommendations, including immediate reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and a coordinated effort to restore marine ecosystems. But more specifically, what can we as Americans do? These large-scale problems need a large-scale solution, and that’s why we need a Congress with more members who will make ocean health a priority. The only way to do this is if the ocean community engages politically through Ocean Champions and as voters. We help do our part by supporting those members of Congress who will fight to stop this downward spiral and by asking you to join us in this struggle. Together, with people who care about the future of our seas, we change the fate of our oceans for the better before it’s too late.

Date Posted: June 30, 2011 @ 8:51 am Comments Off

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