Why Oceans Matter
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Oceans cover 70% of the earth's surface, holding hundreds of thousands of different marine species. From the largest mammals to the smallest microscopic organisms, marine ecosystems trace back to the earliest life on Earth and are the key to a healthy planet. Oceans are beyond just a home to pretty fish or prehistoric sharks, they provide jobs, recreation, transportation, food, and climate control.
In the United States, oceans alone support over 3 million jobs, and 40% of the U.S. population live within 50 miles of the coast. Those numbers display our reliance on oceans and the need for conservation. Our economy depends on coastal areas for the valuable and diverse revenue it reels in. Fishing, boating, and tourism industries would suffer without a healthy ocean. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in 2016 the fishing industry produced $212 billion in sales. Almost all of our foreign trade is transported by the U.S. shipping and cargo industry. Coastal states, like Florida and California, benefit from tourism and recreation year-round and depend on healthy oceans to draw vacationers to their beaches and water activities (boating, snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, etc). When the ocean suffers, the economies of coastal communities' suffer too. These economies thrive and flourish off of a diverse and healthy ocean.
Around the world, more than 3 billion people depend on fish, shellfish, and other marine animals for their primary food source. As global warming continues at an alarming pace, fisheries will suffer, causing a scarcity of food for marine species and people alike. Oceans are a driving food source for upwards of 38% of all people worldwide. How would we survive without them?
In the last decade, climate change has been at the forefront of critical issues among the younger generations, and many feel a sense of urgency to stall or reverse its negative effects before they spiral out of control. Oceans are indispensable and irreplaceable in the fight against global warming. Each time carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, the ocean absorbs about a third of it. Due to human activity, like driving and deforestation, carbon dioxide levels are exponentially increasing. The ocean acts as a carbon sink, pulling some of the harmful greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and dissolving it in their waters. The result: warmer water temperatures that are inhospitable for fish and corrals, rising sea levels that damage coastal areas, and stronger storms that destroy coastal communities. To slow climate change and its rapid effects on our planet, we must take care of our oceans. They are our best ally in this fight.
All around the world, people's livelihoods depend on these vast, still largely unexplored, waters. As humans continue our dependence on harmful fossil fuels, it is more important than ever to minimize our carbon footprint. Choose to bike or walk, eat locally, use reusable or recyclable products, avoid fast fashion, minimize packaging, compost food waste, or plant a garden. These are some of the small ways you, as an individual, can contribute to a healthy planet. Our oceans nurse more than half the life on earth. Millions of jobs around the world depend on our oceans, especially a healthy one. This is not only a fight to save ocean life, but to save all generations to come. This ‘climate issue’ is a human issue.