(This is part two of a two-part series on a report regarding the dismal state of our oceans. Part 1 of the series discusses the report’s findings and the primary ocean stressors currently involved.)
Entire marine ecosystems could disappear within a generation — a phenomenon that would take a devastating toll on humans, not just marine animals, according to the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) report discussed in part one of this series.
You might be surprised to hear that shellfish and other marine animals comprise 15 per cent of animal protein for 3 billion people throughout the world, and another 1 billion people rely on fish stocks for their main source of protein. It’s important to remember that we need to preserve marine ecosystems, not only because they’re pretty to look at and something to explore when we’re taking a decadent beach vacation, but also because much of humanity’s food security is at stake here.
In fact, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) last December released a report called “Environmental Consequences of Ocean Acidification: A Threat to Food Security,” noting that burgeoning greenhouse gas emissions may have more widespread and complex effects on ocean health than previously anticipated, and that the chemistry of the globe’s oceans is being altered at a rate unseen for 65 million years.
The report confirms worries that corals, shellfish and other organisms may have an increasingly difficult time surviving due to weakening skeletons, and demonstrates that ocean acidification combined with ocean warming would lower the range of temperatures in which crabs and other animals can thrive.
This could powerfully affect, among other factors, catches of shellfish; species reliant on coral reefs and those such as salmon that feed on shell-building organisms lower down the food chain. – FIS
What’s more, climate change is predicted to cause big dents in coastal fisheries resources in the Pacific Islands region, potentially slashing production by as much as 50 per cent by 2100, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Heads of Fisheries communicated in March. It is forecasted that higher sea temperatures, ocean acidification, and loss of important habitats like coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves will dramatically affect the inshore resources that provide myriad coastal communities in New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, and other impoverished countries with food and a livelihood. And let’s not forget that people who live off fisheries in various ways populate most countries on Earth, from the United States and Malta to Argentina and Pakistan.
Some 55 million years ago, 2.2 gigatonnes of CO2 were released annually for thousands of years and numerous species died out. Today, it is estimated that 2.2. gigatonnes of CO2 are shot into the atmosphere every year by deforestation alone.
“The rate of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere and the rate of change in the oceans is extraordinary — there is a very urgent need to get that under control,” stressed Alex Rogers, a professor of conservation biology at the University of Oxford and lead author of the study.
And now, the most important part of this series:
What YOU can do
To address the findings, the IPSO report gives several recommendations, such as the creation of “a global body empowered to ensure compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” and steps to improve the fish stock sustainability.
Rogers suggested that anything from choosing the right kind of fish to eat to lobbying politicians helps.
I suggest that fish eaters scan Greenpeace’s canned tuna guide to make sure they are choosing sustainably caught tuna whose harvesting is not wiping out turtles, dolphins, or other species. Also, California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium has a seafood guide that’s really nifty (available as pocket or mobile, too) and the website is rich with information on related issues. Check out their recommendations!
Support green organizations like Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Greenpeace, who work to both spread awareness about vital issues and fight the “bad guys” (in this case, Sea Shepherd – very courageously – goes after poachers hands-on, while Greenpeace targets harvesters of destructively caught fish and the companies that sell them, fights companies that pollute egregiously, and so on).
Attend clean-up days at your local beach or park. Go to Hands Across the Sand each year. Consider volunteering and donating whatever resources you have to anyone working toward a worthy cause.
Whenever a petition appears that could help ocean health, sign it. Visit sites like Care2 and Change.org and sign up for their newsletters to stay informed on new developments, learn how to help, and to find likeminded friends.
Together, we will make a difference.
“If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” – Mother Theresa