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Do our oceans need us or do we need them?

By Emily Shelton 2 weeks ago
Do our oceans need us or do we need them?

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

Marine ecosystems are easily over looked in their importance to the planet's well being.

 

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.  

 

The ocean regulates our climate and weather.

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.
  • Nearly 25% of fishing in developing countries happens near a coral reef and more than 70% of the world’s fisheries are in danger.
  • Industry and pollution are also contributing to increasing acidity levels affecting the health of the ocean.
  • Pollution and eutrophication  (increased nutrients in estuaries or coastal waters changing ecosystem structures) are damaging coastlines.
  • Increased tourism in coastal areas is increasing pollution in the water and adding to coastal erosion.

 

The ocean provides a huge proportion of food and protein supplies, however over fishing has damaged supply.

Goal 14 is giving hope to “Life below Water”

In 2015, the UN published 17 goals to “transform our world” and “achieve a better and sustainable future”. 

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?

 

Our conservation efforts aim to protect the ocean which helps regulate and provide oxygen, while absorbing carbon dioxide.

 

Goal 14’s targets are clear. In short, they aim to:

  • reduce marine pollution
  • maintain and protect marine and coastal ecosystems
  • reduce acidification of the ocean
  • end overfishing in the oceans
  • protect 10% of marine areas via Marine Protected Areas 
  • 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?

 

Ocean conservation aims to prevent the acidification of the ocean.

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. 

 

the tide's and waves forms, maintains, and breeds life into our coastlines creating a diver marine ecosystem.

 

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.

What’s the progress towards Goal 14?

Governments and organisations across the world are showing commitment to achieving Goal 14: Life Below Water

 

GVI marine conservation aim to protect MPA's from over fishing and the climate crisis.

 

How can the individual make an impact?

It’s not just governments that can make a difference though. 

Travel, volunteer and conservation organisations like GVI are helping to raise awareness on both local and international levels, and are designing programs to really make an impact

For the last 15 years, GVI has been working in collaboration with, and alongside the Seychelles National Parks Authority to protect marine resources in Seychelles’ precious marine parks. 

 

Coral bleaching is an irreversible change occurring in many coastlines today.

 

Now, celebrating 20 years of sustainable development, GVI recognises, more than ever, the need for similar collaboration. This work needs to spread across the world, in order to achieve the necessary ocean protection for Goal 14: Life Below Water. 

You can be part of vital marine conservation to help save the oceans that regulate our planet. Join GVI marine conservation programs in Mexico, Thailand, Fiji or Seychelles to make your contribution to our precious Life Below Water:

  • Learn to scuba dive to monitor coral reefs and fish species.
  • Research coral bleaching.
  • Gain hands-on marine research and underwater survey experience.
  • Collect marine ecosystem data for local environmental organisations.
  • Help raise awareness of ocean conservation in international coastal communities.
  • Help educate partners in marine ecosystem health.

 

GVI are working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 through marine conservation.

 

Find out what marine conservation opportunities inspire you. Apply today and contribute to the global task of looking after our precious Life Below Water.

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.

 

GVI Writing Academy: Sign up now and start your freelance writer career.