The oceans make human life possible. Their temperature, their chemistry, their currents, their life forms. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5 per cent of global GDP. Marine fisheries directly or indirectly employ over 200 million people. Coastal waters are deteriorating due to pollution and eutrophication. Without concerted efforts, coastal eutrophication is expected to increase in 20 percent of large marine ecosystems by 2050. Roughly 80per cent of marine and coastal pollution originates on land – including agricultural run-off, pesticides, plastics and untreated sewage.
The ocean drives global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea.
Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future. However, at the current time, there is a continuous deterioration of coastal waters owing to pollution, and ocean acidification is having an adversarial effect on the functioning of ecosystems and biodiversity. This is also negatively impacting small scale fisheries.
For one thing, more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal diversity for their livelihoods. But today we are seeing nearly a third of the world’s fish stocks overexploited.
That’s not a sustainable way of life. Even people who live nowhere near the ocean can’t live without it.
Oceans absorb about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide that humans produce; but we’re producing more carbon dioxide than ever before and that makes the oceans more acidic—26% more, since the start of the industrial revolution. Our trash doesn’t help either—13,000 pieces of plastic litter on every square kilometer of ocean.
Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Around 680 million people live in low-lying coastal zones – that is expected to increase to a billion by 2050. Sustainable and climate-resilient transport, including maritime transport, is key to sustainable development. Around 80 per cent of the volume of international trade in goods is carried by sea, and the percentage is even higher for most developing countries.
Sounds bad, right? Don’t despair! The Sustainable Development Goals indicate targets for managing and protecting life below water.
Saving our ocean must remain a priority. Marine biodiversity is critical to the health of people and our planet. Marine protected areas need to be effectively managed and well-resourced and regulations need to be put in place to reduce overfishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification.
Goal 14 is all about the oceans, seas and what’s swimming around or existing in or near their depths. Sharks, barrier reefs, krill, shores, algae, tuna, turtles, that salt that shot up your nose the last time a wave crashed over you--all protected under Goal 14’s guidelines.
Restoring coastal areas by cleaning up trash, promoting biodiversity and reintroducing natural bulwarks against disaster is another necessary measure. Finally, investing in research. Scientists need much more funding to uncover the ailments of marine life and even more funding to come up with solutions.
Are you ready to work towards this goal? When and where do you want to start?
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