Truth about oceans' degradation and realistic solution

A Fish’s Tale:

 

Oceans and seas cover approximately 70% of the surface of our planet. They are simply essential to our survival.  They provide food, livelihood and revenues for billion of people, but above all they are the key to sustaining life on Earth. The tiny equilibrium on which everything relies on depends on Mother Ocean.

However, instead of recognizing its vital importance in the life cycle, human beings tend to destroy our precious marine resources rather than protect it an cherish it. For centuries, humans have considered oceans as an inexhaustible source of food, energy, transportation route, dumping and military tests ground. 

Nowadays, progress in science has demonstrated the fragility of marine ecosystems and the bad health of our oceans. This is not only a threat for billion of innocent marine species, ocean’s degradation will have a strong negative impact on our lives if nothing is done before it is too late…

 

Why is it so hard to understand that if we do not change our relationships to the oceans, we are all going to pay the cost of our recklessness? Why are we always so long to act? Why are we so negligent in our everyday life? How cannot the majority of the population ignore the warnings of the scientific community?

 

Many researches have suggested that if we are so disrespectful it is because of what we called the “Environmentalist’s Paradox”. In 2005, a study made by the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment found that depletion of marine resources have very often been accompanied by gain in human well being globally. For decades we have benefited so much from oceans that we have neglected the consequences of our impact on it.

Nevertheless, recent researches and environmentalists have argued that ocean’s degradation will inevitably lead to declines in the well being of humans if we do not act to repair our mistakes, now.

 

-Overfishing-

 

Imagine that all fishes have disappeared from the Earth’s surface by 2048? This is not a joke. A recent study published by a Canadian Organization revealed that more than 90% of ocean’s big fish have been fished out and about 75% of the major global fisheries have been overexploited or already depleted. With the advent of Capitalism, fishes and other marine species have become goods, with a specific value and a price. Fishing has become a source of revenue rather than a means of livelihood. Combined with the rapid discoveries in modern technologies, human have begun to favour overfishing rather than subsistence fishing looking for higher profits. 

Just to give you some numbers, while in 1950 the world’s fish production was about 20 million tonnes, it reached 150 million tonnes in 2011!

Rapid depletion of oceans’ resources will have a negative impact on millions of people’s lives if nothing is done now. Today, according to a study made by the UN, more than one billion people are dependent on fish as their primary source of protein. If we do not act to protect ocean’s biodiversity, these people will loose access to their main source of nutrition. It will inevitably lead to famines, civil wars and will cost much more…

 

-Coastlines urbanization-

 

We are more than ever on Earth and coastal areas have become our favourite place to live. According to the UN, about 60% of the world’s population live by the sea. Around the planet, coastlines have been destroyed to give birth to cities and tourism hubs. Beaches, estuaries, marshes and swamps have been destroyed and replaced by modern infrastructures. However, these areas are essential for millions of species. By modifying these marine habitats we contribute to harm the fragile ecosystem, which inhabited the area. Urbanization is always accompanied by activities that have devastating consequences on oceans. Deforestation to build massive towns leads to erosion and sends silt into waters that can block sunlight, essential to many species such as corals. Agriculture and industries reject toxic products and chemicals into the oceans. Tourism attracts every year billion of people that directly or indirectly destroy marine habitats due to leisure activities. Globalization and technology progresses have transformed oceans into huge highways for tankers, container ships and cruise ship, which reject oil and other chemicals, destroy complete areas with anchor and turbines.

 

-Climate change-

 

One of the major element affecting oceans today, is global warming caused by human impact. Carbon dioxide emissions have never been so high.  Oceans temperature has risen by about 0.1 °C. However, marine organisms, especially corals, are very sensitive to water temperature changes. It disrupts the life cycle of thousands of species such as penguins and seals.

Moreover, as waters heats up it expands and inevitably leads to oceans level rise. In the short run if nothing I done, it will lead to inundation of coastal areas and exposed areas. Scientists argue that we are already observing some effects of global warming with stronger and more frequent storms. Warmer waters mean easier and quicker evaporation. These storms hurt both human structures but also forests and marine ecosystems, which in turn reinforce the phenomena…

 

-Marine Pollution-

 

Over the past hundred years, human activities have dangerously contaminated oceans with tonnes of toxic materials including pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, chemicals, oil, plastic… They hurt marine ecosystems and fish species that consume it.

Discarded fishing nets also kill many mammals and big fish every year. The Environmental Research made by oceanographer and chemist Charles Moore, found that more that 44% of seabirds eat plastic and that plastic materials rejected in oceans affected 265 species of fish and mammals. Indirectly, these plastic products, if not consumed, are diluted into oceans and contribute to change their chemical composition. It affect marine wildlife but also humans who consume it.

Agriculture releases fertilizers in oceans and rivers that lead to the development of algae that deprive waters from oxygen destroying the marine habitat of millions species. Scientists have created the notion of “Dead Zones”, areas where wild life cannot develop because of human activities. Today, we count more than 400 of these zones in the world…

Everything is connected and we depend on this weak equilibrium. If we do not modify our lifestyle in the coming years consequences on our lives will be terrible. We believe we are smart and educated, intelligent and sensed but the truth is we are blind. We do not learn from past civilizations and their mistakes. It makes me think about this ancient civilization inhabiting Rapa Nui, nicknamed Easter Island. Its inhabitants were simply obsessed with carving block of rocks to create monumental statues called “moai”. This civilization became one of the most advanced of their times. They had developed a complex society with laws, hierarchical structures, forms of religion and art… Around the second millennium A.D, Rapa Nui’s population reach a peak of 20, 000 individuals. However, as their growth required more and more natural resources, the civilization began to fall apart under the weight of conflicts, famines, the struggle over resources control and natural resources scarcity. Many animal species disappeared, forests were destroyed and in 2 century the island’s population plummeted to only 111 inhabitants… We are no different of ancient civilization we are committed the exactly same mistakes. The story of Rapa Nui and its monumental statues can be seen as a warning for modern generations. The only difference between them and us is the scale, they only destroyed a little island, we are destroying the whole planet…

 

-Realistic Solutions-

 

What is more surprising, it is that we have the power to change the situation very quickly. We know the facts, now we have to act. Our survival depends upon our ability to change our lifestyle before it is too late. Solutions are infinite. Even if oceans account for 70% of our planet only 0.6% of their surface is protected. By increasing this proportion to 30%, scientists believe we can adopt a more respectful behaviour in order to stop depriving oceans from fish. Education is also a major tool. We have to educate the future generations and promote more sustainable management of coastal areas to prevent them from committing the same mistakes we made. Governments and organizations have a major role to play in encouraging green behaviours and a transition to an environment-conscious global economy. Banish destructive fishing methods and create an enforced legislation to protect marine species, an international authority to ensure these laws are respected.

For us, simple individuals, our possible contributions are also infinite. For us, surfers, new production processes and materials have enabled shapers to create new generations of green boards, more robust, made of green materials. Our sport, our passion is linked with nature and oceans. It is our duty to protect it. Our survival depends on our ability to act quickly and effectively.