TODAY marks the UN’s World Oceans Day 2019. The five great oceans that cover over 70pc of the earth’s surface are faced with unprecedented threats in the 21st century. With a rising human population and increasing consumerist demand, these water bodies that are host to the vast majority of the planet’s life forms have seen more disturbances in the past few decades than in the centuries before. With climate change and water temperatures rising, entire ecosystems have become imbalanced: coral bleaching and the change in migratory and hatching patterns of fish are just a few of the effects of global warming. Then there is the massive problem created by humankind’s addiction to plastic, which causes suffering to other forms of life that are not responsible for this state of affairs. The worldwide production of plastic has increased to nearly 300m tonnes a year. Over 8m of that ends up in the oceans, where it can take anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years to disintegrate. Plastic has been found in marine life in the Mariana Trench — the deepest part of the ocean known to us.
Other forms of pollution include discarded deep-sea fishing nets and hooks that marine life gets entangled or ensnared in. There is also large-scale industrial pollution, while growing tourism industries by the coast and commercial shipping activity leave behind their share of pollution, disturbing the natural habitat of animals and plant life. Oil and gas companies also continue to engage in drilling operations and deep-sea mining under the seabed. Then there is the glaring problem of overfishing, illegal fishing and unethical fishing practices such as the use of dynamite to catch fish, which results in large-scale losses and damage to the environment, with some species of fish nearing extinction just to feed humanity’s expanding appetite. The citizens of the world must elect leaders that pledge to make the environment a top priority, and we must hold one another accountable in the safekeeping of our shared planet before it’s too late.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2019