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Posted by Caribbean World Magazine on 23 December 2020 | 0 Comments

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23 December 2020
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It produces over 50 percent of the world’s oxygen, absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere, covers 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, regulates our climate and weather patterns, and provides more than 3.5 billion people with their primary source of food. So, why aren’t we hell-bent on saving our oceans?

Sir Richard Branson is only one of the big voices that has been piling on the pressure in regards to the health of the world’s oceans. Others include director James Cameron, musician Jack Johnson and actors January Jones, Leonardo DiCaprio and Pierce Brosnan. Yet despite the poor health of the world’s oceans directly impacting the food, air and fresh water supplies of more than two-thirds of the planet, the amount of government research dollars allocated to the issue is woefully poor.Yet oxygen and food aren’t optional extras, as is Richard Branson in his statements on ocean health this year have been at pains to point out. 

So, whats to be done?

First and foremost, Branson has called for innovation to make deep, rapid cuts to global carbon emissions in order to meet the Paris Agreement targets. Alongside this first step, there needs to be a massive programme of investment in nature, from conservation projects to reef restoration plans and a global roll-on of cultural training that teaches the world to value, respect and protect Mother Nature for future generations.

Specifically, to reduce ocean risk, Branson reminds the world that alongside projects to protect and restore coral reefs we also need to allocate equal funding and importance to mangroves and coastal wetlands – the planet’s green/blue infrastructure. Can the business and finance sectors make a real impact by actively spearheading these initiatives around the world? Branson thinks so. Governments may stand back to let private initiatives take the lead on these large-scale ambitions but no one single nation or sector can confront ocean and climate risks alone.

Branson throws in the credentials of Ocean Unite, the charity Virgin Unite incubated and he himself co-founded in 2019 - it has joined forces with insurance company AXA and partners from government, the private sector – especially insurance and finance - and civil society to build a true multi-stakeholder partnership. Launched with the backing of 13 governments, the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance is pioneering transformative tools like reef insurance,incentivizing investments in blue carbon sites like mangroves and sea grass beds, and modelling climate/ocean risk to help inform policy. The ultimate aim is to propel solutions that reduce ocean and coastal risk and contribute to the global goal of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees - a goal Branson feels strongly everyone should invest in.

Covid-19 may have knocked some of the biggest global stories off the headlines for now but the importance of ocean health isn’t disappearing anytime soon. Governments can be slow to act, but businesses, cities, communities and individuals can lead the charge - and make a difference. The resounding alarm bells issued by scientists MUST be heeded and investment found to ensure a fairer, safer, healthier future.

Our Ocean: Vital for Our Future

The world ocean provides so many benefits. Here are ten things the ocean does for humans and the planet

  • The air we breathe: The ocean produces over half of the world's oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere.
  • Climate regulation: Covering 70 percent of the Earth's surface, the ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns.
  • Transportation: Seventy-six percent of all U.S. trade involves some form of marine transportation.
  • Recreation: From fishing to boating to kayaking and whale watching, the ocean provides us with many unique activities.
  • Economic benefits: The U.S. ocean economy produces $282 billion in goods and services and ocean-dependent businesses employ almost three million people.
  • Food: The ocean provides more than just seafood; ingredients from the sea are found in surprising foods such as peanut butter and soymilk.
  • Medicine: Many medicinal products come from the ocean, including ingredients that help fight cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease.
The air we breathe: The ocean produces over half of the world's oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere.
Climate regulation: Covering 70 percent of the Earth's surface, the ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns.
Transportation: Seventy-six percent of all U.S. trade involves some form of marine transportation.
Recreation: From fishing to boating to kayaking and whale watching, the ocean provides us with many unique activities.
Economic benefits: The U.S. ocean economy produces $282 billion in goods and services and ocean-dependent businesses employ almost three million people.
Food: The ocean provides more than just seafood; ingredients from the sea are found in surprising foods such as peanut butter and soymilk.
Medicine: Many medicinal products come from the ocean, including ingredients that help fight cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease.

Ocean Facts * courtesy of Save Our Seas www.saveourseas.org

*  The oceans occupy nearly 71% of our planet's surface

*  More than 97% of all our planet's water is contained in the ocean

*  The top ten feet of the ocean hold as much heat as our entire atmosphere

*  The average depth of the ocean is more than 2.5 miles

*  The oceans provide 99 percent of the Earth's living space- the largest space in our universe known to be inhabited by living organisms

*  More than 90% of this habitat exists in the deep sea known as the abyss

*  Less than 10% of this living space has been explored by humans

*  Mount Everest (the highest point on the Earth's surface 5.49 miles) is more than 1 mile shorter than the Challenger Deep (the deepest point in the ocean at 6.86 miles)

*  The longest continuous mountain chain known to exist in the Universe resides in the ocean at more than 40,000 miles long

*  The Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon is deeper and larger in volume than the Grand Canyon

*  The Antarctic ice sheet that forms and melts over the ocean each year is nearly twice the size of the United States

*  The average temperature of the oceans is 2ºC, about 39ºF

*  Water pressure at the deepest point in the ocean is more than 8 tons per square inch, the equivalent of one person trying to hold 50 jumbo jets.

*  The Gulf Stream off the Atlantic seaboard of the United States flows at a rate nearly 300 times faster than the typical flow of the Amazon river, the world's largest river

*  The world’s oceans contain nearly 20 million tons of gold

*  The color blue is least absorbed by seawater; the same shade of blue is most absorbed by microscopic plants, called phytoplankton, drifting in seawater

*  A new form of life, based on chemical energy rather than light energy, resides in deep-sea hydrothermal vents along mid-ocean ridges

*  A swallow of seawater may contain millions of bacterial cells, hundreds of thousands of phytoplankton and tens of thousands of zooplankton

*  The blue whale, the largest animal on our planet ever (exceeding the size of the greatest dinosaurs) still lives in the ocean; it's heart is the size of a Volkswagen

*  The gray whale migrates more than 10,000 miles each year, the longest migration of any mammal

*  The Great Barrier Reef, measuring 1,243 miles, is the largest living structure on Earth. It can be seen from the Moon.

*  More than 90 percent of the trade between countries is carried by ships and about half the communications between nations use underwater cables

*  More oil reaches the oceans each year as a result of leaking automobiles and other non-point sources than was spilled in Prince William Sound by the Exxon Valdez

*  Fish supply the greatest percentage of the world's protein consumed by humans

*  Most of the world's major fisheries are being fished at levels above their maximum sustainable yield; some regions are severely overfished

*  The Grand Banks, the pride of New England fishing for centuries, are closed due to overfishing

*  Eighty per cent of all pollution in seas and oceans comes from land-based activities.

*  Three-quarters of the world's mega-cities are by the sea.

*  By 2010, 80 per cent of people will live within 60 miles of the coast.

*  Death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs the global economy US$12.8 billion a year. The annual economic impact of hepatitis from tainted seafood alone is US$7.2 billion.

*  Plastic waste kills up to 1 million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish each year. Plastic remains in our ecosystem for years harming thousands of sea creatures every day.

*  Over the past decade, an average of 600,000 barrels of oil a year has been accidentally spilled from ships, the equivalent of 12 disasters the size of the sinking of the oil tanker Prestige in 2002.

*  Less than one half a per cent of marine habitats are protected -- compared with 11.5 per cent of global land area

Coastlines

The total length of the world's coastlines is about 315,000 miles, enough to circle the Equator 12 times.

As coastal zones become more and more crowded, the quality of coastal water will suffer, the wildlife will be displaced, and the shorelines will erode. 60% of the Pacific and 35% of the Atlantic Coast shoreline are eroding at a rate of a meter every year.

More than half the world’s population live within a 100 km or 60 miles distance from the coast. This is more than 2.7 billion people. Rapid urbanization will lead to more coastal mega-cities containing 10 million or more people. By the end of the millennium 13 out of 15 of the world’s largest cities will be located on or near the coast. Growing population in coastal areas leads to more marine pollution and distribution of coastal habitats. Some 6,5 million tons (6,500,000,000 kilo) of litter finds its way intotheseaeach year.

(Close to one-half of all Americans live in coastal counties).

Fisheries

The sea provides the biggest source of wild or domestic protein in the world. Each year some 70 to 75 million tons of fish are caught in the ocean. Of this amount around 29 million tons is for human consumption. The global fish production exceeds that of cattle, sheep, poultry or eggs. Fish can be produced in two ways: by capture and by aqua culture. The total production has grown 34% over the last decade.

The largest numbers of fish are located in the Southern Hemisphere due to the fact that these waters are not largely exploited by man.

Fifteen out of seventeen of the world's largest fisheries are so heavily exploited that the reproduction can't keep up. With the result that many fish populations are decreasing rapidly.

Species of fish endangered by overfishing are: tuna, salmon, haddock, halibut, and cod.In the 19th century, codfish weighing up to 200 pounds used to be caught. Nowadays, a 40 pound cod is considered a giant. Reason: overfishing.

Rising Sea Level 

The sea level has risen with an average of 4-10 inches (10 to 25 cm) over the past 100 years and scientists expect this rate to increase. Sea levels will continue rising even if the climate has stabilized, because the ocean reacts slowly to changes.

10,000 years ago the ocean level was about 330 ft (110 mtr) lower than it is now.

If all the world's ice melted, the oceans would rise 200 ft (66 mtr).

Water temperature  

Under the enormous pressures of the deep ocean, sea water can reach very high temperatures without boiling. A water temperature of 400 degrees C has been measured at one hydrothermal vent.

The average temperature of all ocean water is about 3.5° C.

Almost all of the deep ocean temperatures are only a little warmer than freezing (39°F)

Carbon Dioxide Absorption 

Oceans absorb between 30% and 50% of the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuel. Carbon dioxide is transported downwards by plankton. Any change in the temperature of the ocean water, influences the ability of plankton to take up carbon dioxide. This has consequences for the ecosystem, because plankton form the base of the food web.

Reefs  

Over 60% of the world's coral reefs are threatened as a result of pollution, sedimentation and bleaching due to rising water temperatures caused by global warming. Global Coral Monitoring Network (GCRMN) states that currently 27% of all coral reef worldwide has disappeared and around 2050 only 30% will be left.

Rubbish/Contamination

In one year, three times as much rubbish is dumped into the world's oceans as the weight of fish caught.

A single quart of motor oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of drinking water.

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