THE OCEANS are in serious trouble.
Stocks of commercially important fish have collapsed in many areas.
Coral reefs have been dying at an alarming rate. The water is warming and
acidifying. Ecosystems are shifting in unpredictable ways.
2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: News HERE
Click highlighted links in the list below to find out more information on some of these crises (updated July 2012); and also see "Is there any hope?" below for some attempts to correct the problems:
- Fisheries Collapses: The collapse of major fisheries
is well underway, forcing countries to go after deep-sea fish, which
are far fewer, slower growing, and often of less nutritional value. For
example, the orange roughy
was discovered in large numbers off New Zealand in the 1980s, and now
in the Indian Ocean, around deep-ocean seamounts. The fish were caught
in huge numbers near New Zealand and nearly wiped out, since they
reproduce slowly. In fact many of the fish eaten were many decades old. The same thing is happening in the Indian Ocean now. SEE Monterey Bay Aquarium's SEAFOOD-WATCH page for endangered seafood species.
--2011: Scientists call for ban on deep-sea fishing!
- Shark Finning: worldwide, many species of sharks are now seriously endangered mostly due to the lucrative shark-fin soup market, primarily in Asian countries. Sharks are caught being by the millions, their fins stripped off and their remaining (often live) finless bodies tossed back into the sea. There is no nutritive value of these fins that can justify this slaughter. However, public awareness and legislative opposition is now growing. See for example:
2012: Call for ban on finning in the Philippines
- Climate Change: there are serious predictions that global warming may melt the icecaps and may stop the sinking of cold polar waters to the deep sea. Without this flow, there will be no source of oxygen in the deep;
and: Island nations are in danger of disappearing due to global warming.
- Acidification--the other CO2 problem:
CO2 forms carbonic acid when it dissolves in water. This is already
starting to affect marine life; for example, acid dissolves calcium
carbonate, the mineral of seashells and corals. See this news story.
- Deep-Sea Trawling: trawling by fishing boats is causing severe damage to many habitats, destroying unique and sometimes rare species. Click here for a June 2005 article by Greenpeace on attempts to stop this. Click here for a Jan-2006 story on severe decline in deep-sea trawled species: deep fish including grenadiers are rapidly being depleted by fisheries.
- Reefs: Worldwide, coral reefs are dying
at an alarming rate (reefs as we know them may be gone in 50 years!);
causes include acidification from carbon dioxide, global warming,
tourism, fisheries (including dynamite and cyanide fishing).
- Dumping of garbage, sewage and other pollutants into the sea. Some of it sinks, threatening the highly diverse fauna of the deep. This
issue is even more urgent because recent research has found much of the
deep-sea floor to approach a rain forest in terms of biodiversity. But some of it floats, and
ocean currents are gathering trash into huge floating garbage patches like the one recently documented in the central North Pacific.
In 2009, a submersible survey off California found recreational fishing gear to make up the majority of the debris!
In 2010, a garbage patch was found in the North Atlantic.
- Eutrophication of coastal waters, and outbreaks of viral diseases and mysterious toxic algae such as Pfiesteria;
- Low Frequency Active Sonar: New evidence has arisen that the navy's testing of its Low Frequency Active Sonar can trigger mass beaching and dying of whales. See my EPIPELAGIC/SURFACE page for the most recent evidence (scroll to the bottom of that page. See also the 26-Jan-01 issue of Science p576.
- Oil spills and other chemical pollution: March '99: a grounded ship on the Oregon coast was towed and sunk to the abyssal plain with tanks of fuel oil. See the website on the New Carissa disaster. SEE ABOVE FOR 2010 GULF OIL SPILL
- OZONE HOLE over Antarctica is letting in excess UV light; 2006 evidence shows that this is affecting the marine ecosystem
Is there any hope? Recent studies on MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) show that setting aside such reserves can help restore fisheries in nearby waters. Information on other efforts can be found below. HERE are SOME NEWS STORIES on SAVING THE OCEANS:
2000 News: President Clinton signs bill to increase protection of the oceans
2006 News: President Bush signs bill to create world's largest coral-reef reserve/MPA (Marine Protected Area).
2009 News: President Bush designates 3 huge marine reserves
2009 News: New studies show that properly managed fisheries can recover!
2010 News: Congress passes a ban on shark finnning!