It is no longer news that the world is fighting to get back on its feet after the outbreak of the corona virus pandemic which brought all forms of activities, both economic and recreational to a long halt. In the wake of the virus breakout, people lost their jobs, had their pay- checks slashed. Generally, we had to learn to do things differently. For the first time in modern history, the ever thriving tourism and marine economy was dealt a blow. The ban on movement meant the regular hustle and bustle on the oceans through cruise ships, shipping and other shore related activity had to wait. Not only the big industry players were affected but even the small scale fishers at coastal communities who fish to eat and sell were biting nails and praying fervently as the people who always troop to beach sides for daily supplies of seafood were nowhere to be found. This meant the only economic activity they knew was taken away from them. People were made to realise the importance of the ocean and the need to continue having access to it.
Just as the pandemic swept us off our comfort zone, keeping us away from the ocean for months, we risk losing it all together in the near future. Due to centuries of bad practises, the ocean’s health has depleted tremendously, leaving the fate of those whose livelihood it sustains hanging on the balance. The pandemic was just a teaser of what life would be without the ocean and the need for individuals, organisations and world government to take responsibility in making policies that will regulate fishing and the general well-being of the ocean.
The truth is the ocean does more for us that we do for it and we need it for survival when it can exist without us. For starters, it is responsible for a staggering 50% of the earth’s oxygen. Literally, we breathe at its expense even without knowing. Also, according to statistics from the Ocean and National Atmospheric Administration USA, 90% of warming that has happened on earth for the past 50 years has occurred in the ocean. The ocean also serves as a fluid connector, linking the whole world together. Some products and plants can also be gotten from the it for treatment of cancer and other heart related diseases. Lastly, the exotic supply of seafood the ocean affords us cannot be traded for anything. Taking all these into consideration, it is imperative that we protect the ocean for our own sake.
We can foster its healing by cutting down the amount of carbon dioxide we emit daily. With the number of cars and engines pumping smoke into the atmosphere on a daily basis, we make the ocean hotter, foster acidification and snap life out of sea creatures. The number of yet to be identified species that stay in the ocean is quite enormous so polluting the ocean means killing some species we didn’t even get the chance to see. Cutting down emission of green gases will promote the health of the ocean and that of every creature therein. This means more oxygen for us, and more sea food and more creatures to beautify the planet.
We can also contribute by stopping the indiscriminate dumping of refuse and other items into open sewers which eventually find their way into the oceans. About 2.5 metric tons of solid waste are produced around the world and out of that, about 275 metric ton is plastic waste. The estimated number of plastic afloat the ocean is pegged at over five trillion. That is alarming, considering the dangers this poses to water creatures. We can cut down the statistics by patronising bio-degradable products as well as limiting our use of plastic based items as much as possible.
Creative art is another dimension to arresting to problem of ocean well-being. Different craft artists have been emerging with different items made strictly for ocean waste. Just recently, we concluded a contest where creative people made incredibly fascinating items with great market value purely from ghost gears. This way, they are helping reduce, reuse and recycle waste with little or nothing. If we can make a decision to patronize items made from ocean waste, we will be sustaining the livelihood of these creative people while ridding our oceans of unnecessary waste.
Furthermore, when you visit the beach for recreation, choose to see beyond the fun-time by taking responsibility. You can make a conscious effort with friends to pick up some of the non-biodegradable items found offshore and dispose them in well covered trash bins, were they can be taken for proper final disposal. Not only are plastics that lie about on the shore dangerous for sea animals, they also kill the aesthetics of the beach; a place where we should be in tune with nature.
Education and sensitization needs to be carried out in most coastal communities to teach fishers on the best ways to dispose of fishing nets as most tend to throw it into the ocean where it poses a major problem to several creatures. They need to be sensitized on the need to preserve species who are on the verge of extinction, especially when caught in their nets. The issue of ghost gears need to be brought to the fore and active publicity run to this regard. Governments need to partner with organisations and stakeholders to create the awareness through seminars, workshops, radio jingles and other forms of advertorial. We cannot make the ocean clean overnight but we can decide to take responsibility today, in our own little corner, for the sake of nature; and of course humanity. The decisions we take today will speak volumes in a hundred years to come and also determine if the ocean will keep sustaining us. Happy World Oceans Day!