In many ways, the ocean is an open history book — relaying grim tales of waste, pollution and shortsighted management of our planet’s natural resources. The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of its water, yet a growing number of factors continue to threaten the health of our oceans and, by extension, the sustainable future of our planet.
As the Earth warms, so do the oceans — causing increasing rates of acidification that concern scientists and lawmakers alike. President Barack Obama noted acidification as a key climate-related concern in an Executive Order he issued last year urging Americans to embrace climate change awareness. Scientists note that acidification has happened before in Earth’s history — but never at such rapid rate. The most comparable event, which took place about 65 million years ago, is estimated to be 10 times slower than current acidification.
Though human activity indirectly impacts ocean health through climate change, direct actions may pose even greater concerns. To keep up with demand for certain species, massive commercial fishing vessels empty large swaths of water in one pass, then simply move on to another. Known as overfishing, the serial depletion of fish populations that leaves few adult fish to repopulate the seas, this phenomenon poses a real and imminent threat to ocean biodiversity — which could endanger sea life all the way up the food chain and have potentially devastating effects on underwater ecosystems. Meanwhile, currents draw millions of tons of trash to an area the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean, known as the North Pacific Gyre or trash vortex, where it swirls in perpetuity and grows larger by the day.
Outspoken consumer advocacy, thoughtful legislation and greater industry transparency can go a long way to ensuring a healthier ocean for our children. But another factor may play an even greater role in determining a brighter future for the world’s fish — the power of story.Click to continue reading »