The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods
I had the privilege of growing up near the ocean. It pains me to see how overfishing, pollution and rising temperatures are destroying our oceans and biodiversity. As we mark #WorldOceansDay, let’s end our war on nature and ensure the health of our oceans for future generations.António Guterres
Secretary General, UN
In the entire solar system, perhaps the Earth is the only planet where life exists and contain large amounts of water. 70% of the Earth is covered by water, and oceans constitute ~97% of water available on Earth. The ocean has a vast contribution in regulating the climate cycle and home to millions of plants, animals, micro-organism, and the planet’s largest animal, the blue whale. The phytoplankton, microscopic organisms at the ocean’s surface, produced about half of the world’s oxygen and is the primary source of ocean life. Over three billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihood. The ocean contains 50-80 per cent of all life on Earth. World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) indicates that there are more than 230 thousand named marine species.
On June 8, 1992, at the Earth Summit of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the Oceans Institute of Canada proposed an international day for oceans at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Sixteen years of effort led to the UN adopting in 2008, and since then, June 8 is being observed every year as World Oceans Day. It reminds everyone of the significant roles the oceans have in everyday life, the impact of human actions on the ocean, and measures to be taken for sustainable management of the world’s oceans.
World Economic Forum reiterates how asset the sea is for the planet and contributes to the countries’ economy. Nearly 10% of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, and the fishery is the primary source of livelihood for most of the fishermen community in developing countries. Sustaining human life has a strong linkage to oceans. Ironically, overzealous humans became responsible for its ruin. Ocean pollution (80% coming from land-based activities), oil, chemicals and garbage making way into the waters of the sea, overexploiting of marine food affecting the health of oceans. UNESCO reports that by 2100, half of the world’s marine biodiversity will be on the verge of extinction.
In the race of development, all countries compete to get ahead of each other, and one major calamity is the overexploiting the natural resources. Exploiting ocean resources is no exception. The societies which will promote sustainable development would win the race. As the challenges to the ocean continue to grow, so is the need for novel solutions and the people driving them. International cooperation is essential to strengthen and develop scientific research and technologies in the field of ocean science. It is crucial to enhance the scientific developments and capacity building in developing countries and island nations.
The treasures of the deep sea are helping humanity on the health front too. Compounds found here have given us new cancer treatments. Scientists believe that new antibiotics for fighting against superbugs can be developed from what we find in the deep sea. These unstudied depths could also hold the key to understanding the beginnings of life on Earth. More than 80% of the ocean is unmapped and unexplored, which leaves open questions for scientists. Prof Shailesh Nayak, a reputed researcher in this domain and Director of NIAS, opines that oceans have a lot to offer for sustainable development and explains the importance of nurturing the “Blue economy” (to know more access https://niascomm.in/2020/01/21/lets-talk-blue-economy/ ).
As the UN embarks on the decade (2021-2030) of Ecosystem restoration and Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, there is a need to strengthen international cooperation to develop scientific research and innovative technologies that can connect ocean science with the needs of society. The COVID-19 pandemic led the world to realise the interconnectivity of nature and humanity on this planet. Like many, the ocean economy too was hard hit by the pandemic. As ocean- and land-based economies are intertwined, the impact would have widespread economic and social repercussions for the world.
Recall the song in the 60s by Mukesh (lyrics by Indivar and music by Roshan),
Oh re tal mile nadi ke jal me,
nadi mile sagar me
Sagar mile kaun se jal me,
koyi janey naa…
water of a pond goes into a river,
river goes into an ocean,
where does the water of the ocean go to mingle?
If we do not take care of the ocean, how it would survive?
Let us raise awareness so that we live in a world with sustainable development.
For sustainable development, we need to take care of Earth, Ocean and everything that lives on this planet.
One Ocean, One Climate, One Future – Together
*A Toonlog on the topic was written in the year 2020 (World Ocean Day 2020)