June 8th is World Ocean Day. This year's theme runs under the title "The ocean: life and livelihood."
We must be aware that the ocean supplies us with at least half of the oxygen produced in the world, is home to 90 percent of the planet's biodiversity and covers 70 percent of its extension. In addition, they have an influence on meteorological phenomena and the climate and welcome impressive species into their waters that find their home there. The ocean brings us a lot of benefits and helps sustain us, which is why, now more than ever, we must protect it.
More than half of the waters of the oceans and seas are exempt from regulations or laws, they are international waters, so the management of the biodiversity that inhabits them or the situation in which the The ocean is not anyone's priority or “problem”.
The environmental crisis is having a resounding impact on the waters of the oceans, putting the biodiversity that inhabits them at critical risk. It is increasingly difficult to face the climate threat caused by pollution and overproduction, and, therefore, the consequences generated are increasingly serious. Nearly 100% of the large fish stocks are virtually destroyed, and half of the coral reefs have already disappeared.
Global warming is already 1 percent above the pre-industrial level, resulting in oceans that are warmer, more acidic, and less suitable for habitation. Data reveal that the ocean absorbs practically all the heat of the climatic ecosystem. To this is added that the thawing of the ice blocks of the glaciers favors the rise of the sea level, which will also have negative effects on the species that inhabit them and on humans, since natural catastrophes are, and will be , increasingly common and will affect cities that are a few meters above sea level and small islands.
On the other hand, the increase in tourism is also a factor that alters the situation of the ocean waters, which is home to 80% of world tourism. Maritime trade also influences the seas and oceans, as thousands of ships navigate salty waters daily carrying goods. The trail of contamination can be seen from space. The consequences of maritime freight transport are water pollution and biodiversity and noise pollution.
Another great enemy of the sea is plastic, a substance that does not decompose, is not eliminated, and if it is not recycled, it ends up in the sea. Today there is no ocean without plastic, from the surface to the seabed, passing through the stomachs of the species that inhabit them.
THE BLUE WHALE
This large mammal, classified as the largest animal on the planet, which inhabits all the world's oceans and communicates with sounds indecipherable to the human ear, is in grave danger despite having been under protection for decades.
There are numerous causes that explain this state of vulnerability; We find, on the one hand, are the captures that occur accidentally when the whales fall into the fishing nets of the boats without being the main objective of the fishermen. The right whale of the North Atlantic and the humpback whale of the Arabian Sea are the most affected, however, there are many species that are involved in accidental captures, such as dolphins or porpoises.
On the other hand, the climate change is also a factor justifying the threat to the survival of the whales. The increase in water temperature, and the thawing of glaciers and sea ice seriously affect the whales that inhabit the Arctic and Antarctic regions, since they are "equipped" with a layer of fat that protects them from the cold; but if it is not cold, they are too hot. On the other hand, the waste from the oil and textile industries, from seaports or landfills also seriously affects the life of cetaceans, who see their natural habitat reduced or contaminated, and suffer physical damage such as hearing loss. In addition, the particles of chemical products that remain in the environment and are displaced by air currents stabilize when they reach the Arctic area. The low temperatures and the absence of bacterial activity prevent these contaminants from disintegrating and they progressively and incessantly accumulate in the tissues of the whales.
Whales are also used in some countries to market meat and oil. This practice was born two centuries ago, and although since 1986 the hunting and commercial use of whales has been prohibited by law, in places like Norway, Iceland or Japan, it continues to be done, and they do so under the questionable argument that it is done for of scientific investigations.
Sharks are the leaders of the food chain and play a fundamental role in the conservation of the oceans. Well, they are also one of the large oceanic species that are in a critical state. Studies reveal that the shark population has been reduced by more than 70 percent in the last 50 years. According to University of Exeter researcher Richard Sherley, for every 10 sharks that inhabited the oceans in 1970, today there are three.
The main cause has been overfishing; their meat, fins and liver oil are extracted from sharks. In addition, they are targets of recreational fishing and also victims of massive fishing nets. Ocean fishing has increased the pressure on these species 18 times since 1970.
The most vulnerable shark species are hammerheads, whitetip sharks, and great hammerheads. In addition, these populations have a lower percentage in terms of laws and regulations for the protection of marine species.
This animal eternally persecuted by fur trappers is now persecuted by climate change. Seal mortality has increased to a large extent due to global warming, revealing the latest data that, in Canada, during 2020, eight out of ten newborn seals died due to the high temperatures recorded. Seal pups thrive on ice sheets, but the Atlantic Ocean has decreased its amount of ice by 20 percent. Each year the hunting of 300,000 baby seals is authorized to sell their skin, which also makes it difficult for them to procreate and survive.
Caring for the ocean and its biodiversity is of vital importance so that we can continue to be excited when we see a whale surfacing or the white fur of a seal diving into the water. If there are no sharks, what will inspire the next Steven Spielberg to create a masterpiece?
There are solutions for all problems, and working together we will know how to overcome all the obstacles that we find along the way.
Happy Ocean Day!