Aquatic Biodiversity Loss

Much of the world’s ocean is unexplored. Some may argue that we have explored more of space than our own waters. What we do know is that we are losing aquatic biodiversity, and fast. According to Miller and Spoolman “40% of the world’s people get 15-20% of their animal protein and essential nutrition from seafood,” (textbook). The ocean is also a huge contributor to the world’s oxygen source. More than half of the world’s oxygen is produced from the ocean. The ocean is essential to sustain life on this planet. 

The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” as some call is a giant floating island made up of trash. It is said to be around 2 million square kilometers. This fact is staggering. 70% of garbage that ends up in the ocean sinks to the bottom meaning the ocean floor beneath the island is also covered in trash. This destroys the ocean’s ecosystem. Horrifying images of strangled sea turtles and the stomach of birds filled with plastic circulate today’s media. Sadly, the media can only show so much of what actually happens to these sea animals. 

Additionally carbon emissions greatly contribute to the loss of aquatic biodiversity. About one third of human carbon emissions end up in our oceans. Coral reefs around the world are disappearing due to high levels of carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is produced when Carbon dioxide enters the ocean and reacts with water. Carbonic acid is detrimental to coral reefs because it eats away at the calcium carbonate in many crustaceans and the coral itself. This is another important example of habitat destruction. Without a strong coral foundation many organisms living off of the reefs aren’t able to survive. 

Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its corals since 1995 - BBC News
The Great Barrier Reef after years of exposure to carbonic acid.

Some solutions have been proposed to fix this problem, some temporary and some long term. The root of the problem is everything foreign that enters the ocean. That’s a big root. This means cutting down on all waste and all carbon emissions. This is a big ask and is better looked at through a smaller scope. On a personal level, buying carbon free makes a huge difference. Electric cars are becoming more and more available to people everywhere. Buying locally produced products also greatly reduces your carbon footprint. Additionally finding produce that is local makes a big difference because of the shortened amount of transportation. 

On another level marine restoration plays a major role in sustaining a healthy ocean. Marine biologists and many other scientists work to protect parts of the ocean so that the ecosystem can regenerate. However, only 1.2% of the ocean is protected. Marine reserves have been proven to greatly increase the biodiversity in those areas. Scientists found that on average in only two to three years on marine reserves fish populations double in size. Scientists hope to have ten to fifteen percent of the world’s ocean set aside for any harmful human activities. This would create enough space so that the fish population can increase and the average temperature of the ocean can drop. 

Managing fisheries also greatly improves the health of the ocean. Overfishing has caused massive losses in the world’s fish population. If the overfishing trend continues, researchers have stated that there will be no more fish in 2048. A huge contributor to this problem is the fact that much of the edible seafood caught and distributed ends up in the trash. About forty five percent of edible seafood between 2009 and 2013 was thrown out. This shows the importance of buying sustainably. Subsidies have been placed on companies who consistently overfish. Although this does not solve the problem, it helps prevent large corporations from draining the ocean.