FYA – For Your Awareness
Oceans cover 70% of the earth’s surface and represent the largest habitat on earth and are home to 21,000 species of fish. Oceans are in trouble because each day 22 million tons of carbon dioxide are absorbed by the world’s oceans as a result of pollution, cars and people. This is resulting in the ocean becoming more acidic and threatening marine animals and ultimately our food supply.
What are Oceans?
Our global ocean is a large body of saline (salt) water that is interconnected but geographically divided into five major oceans. The five oceans are: Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, and Southern Ocean. These oceans also branch off into some of the major seas including: the Mediterranean Sea, the South China Sea, and the Caribbean Sea. Smaller ocean bodies of water are also known as seas, gulfs, bays, and straits.
Oceans are made of saltwater, approximately one cup of salt to one gallon of ocean water. The Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest ocean and the Mariana Trench (near Japan) is the deepest part of the ocean at 36, 200 feet, which is deeper than Mt. Everest is tall.
The ocean is divided up into three vertical zones. The top layer is called the euphotic zone where light can penetrate. The next layer is the disphotic zone; it is too deep for much light to penetrate. The deepest part of the ocean is called the aphotic zone, where it is always cold and dark. There are approximately 17,000 species of marine animals living in this zone.
The average ocean temperature is 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Ocean currents surround the earth and the temperature variations between the warm and cold currents affect the world’s weather systems. Oceans vary in temperature depending on their location in proximity to the equator and their depth, typically they are warmer closer to the surface and colder at depth. Oceans support the largest variety of life on earth ranging in size from microscopic plankton to enormous whales. Oceans are home to a myriad of ecosystems including coral reefs.
Plants such as seaweed, kelp, and phytoplankton (marine algae) can be free floating or cling to rocks. Phytoplankton are a source of nutrition for many marine species, forming part of the food web. They also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere acting as a carbon sink. Oceans contain a wide range of marine life, some of which include anemones, starfish, shellfish, fish, turtles, otters, penguins, sea lions, octopus, dolphins, whales, and sharks.
Where are oceans located?
Oceans surround all of the land masses of the world. The oceans include the Pacific which separates Asia and Australia from the Americas; the Atlantic separating the Americas from Eurasia and Africa; the Indian in southern Asia separating Africa and Australia; the Southern is the southern part of Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, encircling Antarctica and covering most of the Antarctic; and the Arctic which covers most of the arctic and borders northern North America and Eurasia.
Why are oceans important to protect?
Oceans are important to protect for many reasons. First, they are a habitat for marine plants and animals. Oceans are a global food source, providing fish and seafood products that we depend on. In the United States the oceans account for nearly 2 million marine related jobs. Oceans have an important role of filtering pollution which is important to our survival. Oceans provide recreation and tourism opportunities and aid in transporting goods and people. Oceans also play a large part in our weather patterns, through evaporation as rain, air circulation, and currents contributing to water and land temperature. Healthy oceans are essential to our survival.
When are oceans under threat?
The biggest threats to oceans are from humans. Overfishing is a big threat, causing many species of fish to become extinct and changing the fragile balance of marine life. Pollution is having a big impact on our oceans. Chemicals and sewage that is dumped into the ocean, garbage, and excess carbon dioxide all change the pH of the ocean making it difficult for marine species to live. Another threat to our oceans is coastal development. Dense development close to the shore can contribute to erosion and discharge into the ocean. Tourism can also be a threat to our oceans by destroying fragile habitats. Shipping can have detrimental affects on the ocean by discharging pollutants into the ocean and by introducing non native plants that can destroy the delicate ocean ecosystems. Drilling for oil and gas can disturb and impact marine life, as well as the damage caused by oil spills. It is important to protect the ocean so that we can continue to enjoy it as a food source, for recreation and transportation. An ugly truth that threatens our oceans is the massive floating trash, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that spans 270,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean. It is a collection of plastic, debris and sludge that are trapped by currents.
Who is protecting the ocean?
Seafood Watch promotes sustainably caught seafood and provides resources for consumers and restaurants to know which seafood to avoid.
Endangered Oceans Project through NRDC seeks to establish sustainability and good stewardship of the Earth as central ethical imperatives of human society.
World Wildlife Federation has been protecting oceans for decades through their partnership with partners and stakeholders such as fishing industry, local communities, governments, other conservation groups, and global conventions to find and implement innovative solutions. They also help bring governments together to cooperate on managing their shared marine resources.
Plastiki is a boat made entirely of plastic bottles (1,250 – 2 liter bottles) that completed an 8,000 mile journey from San Francisco to Sydney. Their purpose is to raise awareness and create action around the 73.9 million pounds of plastic floating in our ocean.
How can we protect the ocean?
Individuals can advocate for healthy ocean practices by purchasing seafood that is sustainably harvested, not purchasing plastic water bottles but instead reusing drinking containers, and supporting organizations through donating time and money that protect the ocean. You can also participate in coastal clean-ups if you live near an ocean. Advocate for stricter policies and penalties for overfishing, and for developing marine protected areas, and stricter protocols for ocean governance.