Our Oceans face a devasting future due to overfishing, global warming, toxic waste dumps, industrial run-offs, etc. In addition, the liquid state of our Oceans makes the containment of acidification or marine pollution even more difficult.
Around a quarter of all carbon dioxide, which we release into the atmosphere, is absorbed by our Oceans which increases the acidity of the water. When the acid levels rise high enough, they cause the limestone (coral skeletons) and all exoskeletons of clams, mussels, lobsters, shrimps, nudibranch, and sea urchins to dissolve. Basically, most of our invertebrates and coral reefs will not be able to survive!
About 70% of the oxygen is produced by algae within our Oceans, also planet “Earth” consists of 71% of water and only 29% land. When you hear that the Amazon Forest are the lungs of our planet, it is a good comparison, but our Oceans are a much more significant part of these lungs than generally understood. Needless to mention what will happen to us humans if we lose our Oceans.
Action is desperately needed before the negative impact, as a consequence of our modern lifestyle over the last decades, becomes an irreversible collapse of our Oceans.
It is not a matter of ‘if’ anymore but ’when’!
Marine sanctuaries offering shelter to specific ecosystems is one of the most valuable solutions available. Mrs Sylvia Earle understood the urgency and created ‘Hope Spots’ as part of the Mission Blue and the Sylvia Earle Alliance. The project consists of creating marine sanctuaries worldwide by people who are willing to make a change. It allows many species to be protected before it is too late and opens a door for governments to get on board. In addition, marine sanctuaries create a spill-over effect of species outgrowing the sanctuary providing local fishing communities with enough stock, as long as the marine reserve’s boundaries are respected. It is a suitable solution to balance the coexistence between humans and the Ocean.
MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) put in place by the United Nations (IUCN) and PSSA (Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas) by the IMO, have unfortunately too often become profitable fishing grounds due to lack of law reinforcement and patrol possibilities. The initiative of Mission Blue has grown consistently and has been of great assistance, to reach relatively satisfactory protection for the triangle of the pelagic for example (Galapagos-Cocos-Malpelo), thanks to the efforts of non-profits like ‘Fundación Malpelo’ and the collaboration of governments.
On a smaller scale, coral restoration programs allow the lesser marine ecosystem to rebuild from the bottom up providing breeding grounds for smaller fish, attracting predators like parrotfish, and leaving top predators such as sharks to find a stable and safe feeding area.
For obvious reasons, sharks are the most misunderstood species on the planet, due to shark attacks on humans and unfortunate perception created through the film ‘Jaws’. So, maybe we should convince Mr. Spielberg to make a movie on shark conservation one day.
For context, there were fifty-seven shark attacks worldwide in 2020 of which ten were fatal, compared to an estimated one hundred and fifty deaths caused by coconuts falling from their tree.
Sharks play an essential role as predators in the marine environment, and in the case of coral reefs, they are crucial to preserving a balanced ecosystem. What do you think happens when barracudas have no predators on the reefs, for example?
Although it is an uphill battle, these matters are taken seriously by marine conservation organisations and with the collaboration of some governments. In 2021 Costa Rica and Fiji did list sharks as endangered species through CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). These steps in the right direction allow reinforcement of regulations, patrolling of specific areas, and penalise those caught fishing sharks.