Oceans in crisis
Tuesday 8 June 2010
This year's World Oceans Day, only the 2nd officially recognised one, came at a point when many of our oceans are in crisis. In the past, oceans have been viewed as a limitless resource, however, this ecosystem is both fragile and heavily negatively impacted by human activities.
The oceans provide us with many essential resources including food, oxygen and medicines whilst also regulating our climate. Sadly, these key roles are taken for granted and the resources overexploited. Oceans have been extensively overfished, polluted and are measurably impacted by the effects of climate change.
It is a combination of these factors that has left many of our oceans and seas in desperate need of protection. ZSL was delighted, therefore, that the UK government took the important step of creating the world’s largest marine protected area in the British Indian Ocean Territory, or Chagos Archipelago on the 1 April 2010. Many more of these bold initiatives are required.
Coral reefs are the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet and are estimated to support between 1-3 million species of plants and animals. It is estimated that about 19% of coral reefs have already been lost and many scientists predict that many more will face the same fate in the next few decades.
The implications of their loss could be far reaching with over 18% of the world’s population heavily dependant on coral reefs for food, income and coastal protection. ZSL was part of a group of international experts who highlighted the issues in a call to action at a Coral Crisis Meeting last year.
Current crisis: Gulf of Mexico
The recent oil spill within the Gulf of Mexico has only further highlighted the fragility of oceans and the potentially devastating impacts that human activities can have on the natural world.
The spill is set to have disastrous implications on coastal communities and ecosystems. It could potentially devastate populations of species that are only found in the Gulf, such as the dwarf seahorse (Hippocampus zosterae). With ZSL’s role in leading the international Project Seahorse team, we are working to support efforts to conserve these species.
World Oceans Day was proposed in 1992 at an Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Despite not being officially declared by the United Nations until 2009 the day has been unofficially celebrated for the past 17 years.