The ocean is big and blue. It covers over three quarters of our planet. It’s one of the largest sources of life. But do we really understand our water, our vast ocean network, and most importantly: “Life Below Water”?
The Pacific. The Atlantic. The Indian. The Southern. The Arctic. Together, this mass of interconnected water covers 361,132,000 square kilometres (over 70% of the earth’s surface).
But, how much do we really need it, rely on it, and depend on it? And what is being done to conserve it?
Life below water gives us life above water
The ocean is vital to human life. We rely on the world’s oceans to provide and regulate our everyday, fundamental needs.
Our five main oceans connect to spread across the entire planet. It’s this mass waterway that:
generates rainwater and drinking water
regulates our climate and weather
forms, maintains, and breeds life into our coastlines
provides a huge proportion of our food and protein supplies
helps regulate and provide oxygen, while absorbing carbon dioxide
provides transport, trade routes, and employment.
The UN’s facts and figures about our oceans detail just how crucial water is to us, but they also outline the grave dangers it currently faces.
Life below water is at risk
Our oceans are under threat. This threat stems mostly from human actions. What is it going to take for us, the global population, to be aware of the real consequences of our actions?
Right now the health of our planet’s water is suffering significantly.
Overfishing in the oceans results in declining fish species and damaged coral reefs, which creates an imbalance in the ecosystem.
Increased pollution and industry is raising temperatures, contributing towards melting ice caps and rising sea levels, which harms marine species and ecosystems.
Goal 14: Life Below Water aims to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.
This seems a reasonable aim. But is it achievable in the current environment of land-based pollution leading to coral reef bleaching, overfishing in the oceans, marine habitat degradation, ocean acidification and climate change?
Goal 14’s targets are clear. In short, they aim to:
reduce marine pollution
maintain and protect marine and coastal ecosystems
make fisheries, aquaculture and tourism more sustainable
increase the science and research around ocean health
enhance ocean conservation efforts.
But, how do we turn a goal into a reality?
Changing perceptions and habits is vital
Action is needed now in order to preserve our oceans, and ultimately, preserve human life as we know it. As fish species decline, the health of coral reefs decreases and marine ecosystems crumble. This decline of Life Below Water is negatively affecting our lives above water.
But, how do we prioritise this? How do we, as a global community, realise the importance of action now?
How do we make the link between the food we buy in supermarkets and the fish living below water miles away? How do we notice the difference in the quality of the air we breathe, or the impact of rising CO2 levels? The short answer is: we don’t – not enough anyway – and this is why changing perspectives and habits is so important.
Scientific research can give us information and answers that the individual is unable to access. This is why science and global goals, like the UN SDGs, are so vital. It’s these official targets that are now calling governments, and individuals, to take action. And they are.
Governments around the world are committing to more protected marine areas. There are currently 16,927 MPAs in total and the number is increasing by the week. The World Database on Protected Areas equates this to 8% or 28,189,691 kilometers squared.
Emily Shelton is an intern at the GVI Writing Academy. The Writing Academy is a skills-development program that pairs development editors with budding travel writers. Learn more about the program here.
By Zaytoen Domingo
Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.
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