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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Oceans: There’s Still Reasons To Be Hopeful For Its Conservation

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We all have our childhood memories of a visit to the oceans, running along the waterline, and collecting seashells. But rarely have we wondered how threatened the oceans have been from that puny creature prancing along its vast shores. Our oceans and the lifeforms it nurtures are endangered like at no other time in their history. But then it also has the resilience to withstand and fight back to regain its glory but with a little help from us humans.

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We have raped the ocean like destroyed its teeming life. Offshore drilling has polluted ocean waters, overfishing has decimated the fish population and skewered the balance of life in the ocean.

And the climate change brought about by the rising temperatures has raised water temperatures and destroyed various life forms and threatens most others.

The amount of plastic in the ocean threatens to outweigh the mass of lifeforms in its waters and poisons and chokes them to extinction.

Independent biospheres like the Great Barrier Reef are being destroyed at a rapid pace, and even apex predators depending on the ocean like the whale, the shark, and the polar bear are facing extinction.

The Generation That Oversaw The Destruction Of Our Oceans

But there still is hope, and we have it in us to save the oceans. Marine preservation efforts across the planet are showing positive results. Coral reef biologist, Nancy Knowlton from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History says that many success stories help negate those hopeless feelings of being the generation that watched over the destruction of the planet and its oceans.

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She and others had come up with the Twitter hashtag #oceanoptimism back in 2014. Cambridge Conservation Initiative and Conservation Optimism are two such organizations that have broadened the theme and helped spread successful stories of conservation, discoveries, resolute efforts, and resources.

Also read: Plastisphere: The Oceans’ Very Own Ecology Of Microbial Organisms Living Off Plastics

Nothing moves rapidly when it comes to marine conservation. Neither are the efforts cheap, while it requires collaboration on a massive scale and the trust that the efforts will be fruitful. The challenges have been as deep as the oceans but focusing on the areas of success could help motivate to add to the efforts, Knowlton wrote in 2020 in the Annual Review of Marine Science that upheld optimism about the ocean.

Conservation Efforts That Have Brought Definite Results For The Oceans

It began right at the top. An international moratorium on whale hunting way back in the 1980s was hugely successful, though countries like Norway and Japan have been recalcitrant and have continued whaling. The population of the humpback whale is back to the level that existed before large-scale commercial hunting began. From an alarming 450, it is now well over 25,000.

Sea turtles like the Ridley and the Green turtles have seen a turnaround in their population.

Fisheries Have Brought In Measures To Save The Oceans’ Produce

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Many areas of the ocean have been overfished to the extent that many fish varieties are already extinct. But efforts at sustainable management have led to a healthy turnaround in the population of many valuable fishing grounds that bring in 34% of the total global catch. While 34.2% of the oceans’ fisheries continue to be overfished, harvests have stabilized for varieties like the European sardines, Alaska Pollock, and the Indian mackerel, and the yellowfin tuna, thanks to regulatory efforts.

More Marine Protected Zones Are Helping In Conservation Efforts

Marine protected zones around the world have helped preserve biodiversity and withstood specific threats to certain species and ecosystems. 8% of the total oceans are designated as Marine Protected Areas. New areas are being added to it, for instance, the inclusion of 3 million square kilometers in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica. These areas serve as safe sanctuaries for marine life and also help replenish fish stocks in the open oceans.

Also read: Past Sea Levels Might Have Been Less Extreme Than Previously Assumed

Struggle Against Pollution In The Oceans

Yes, there isn’t much evidence on the ground, but measures have been initiated that should show results in the coming years. One measure taken long back is showing results. The ban on lead in the 1970s has resulted in the percentage of lead in ocean water dropping to negligible levels. Oil spills, too have been controlled thanks to the efforts of the International Maritime Organization.

Plastics continue to be a menace though. Around 23 million tons of plastic continue to be added every year to the ocean. But efforts to come up with alternatives that are fully degradable in the oceans.

Restoring The Coastal Mangroves

The mangroves around the world are one of the most diverse ecosystems and also protect the shores from the fury of the oceans. These vast reservoirs of carbon were decimated but post the Tsunami, people have realized the value of the mangroves. The 1,400 square kilometers stretch of mangroves on the Mekong Delta that was destroyed by the US bombing is being restored gradually.

The ocean is also being recognized as a vast endless source of clean fuel in the form of wind and ocean waves. Offshore wind capacity is expected to grow by 37% this year.

While the volume of bad news continues to dominate, ocean scientists are hopeful about the good that is happening around the world’s oceans. Healing the oceans will be a herculean task, but the success stories should inspire others to engage in efforts.




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