Oceans comprise three quarters, or 75%, of the Earth’s surface. They also contain 97% of the water in the planet and represent 99% of the living space on it. Furthermore, oceans absorb roughly 30% of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, which buffers the effects of climate change.
There is no doubt that life on the planet is possible because oceans exist. The water cycle the planet relies on starts and ends in them; also, the weather, climate and coastlines are all directly affected by currents and temperatures in the oceans. Moreover, nearly half of the global population depends on the oceans for their daily protein intake and the fishing business employs more than 200 million people worldwide. They also serve as a way of communication, and for trade.
Despite the obvious importance of the oceans and the species that dwell in them, it is estimated that 40% of the oceans in the world are facing the impacts of direct or indirect human actions. Sea temperatures are rising because the oceans absorb heat from the atmosphere -as the ice-sheets melt, their reflective surface shrinks and the heat is absorbed by the dark waters. This, in addition to the acidification of the water is setting the stage for a debacle: coral reefs are bleaching and underwater and coastal ecosystems are losing their balance. Overfishing and issues such as bycatch is depleting the marine resources and disrupting the natural chain of food (UN, 2015)
It is of the utmost importance to tackle the issues related to the over-exploitation and pollution of the oceans. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Global, seeks to promote careful management of them in order to prevent further damage done to them and reverse the one that has already been done
GLOBAL GOAL 14: CONSERVE AND SUSTAINABLY USE THE OCEANS, SEAS AND MARINE RESOURCES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Source: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds.
- By 2020, sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts, and take action for their restoration in order to achieve healthy and productive oceans.
- Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification.
- By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics.
- By 2020, conserve at least 10% of coastal and marine areas.
- By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation.
General guidelines for achieving Global Goal 14:
- Increase the economic benefits to Small Island developing States and least developed countries from the sustainable use of marine resources.
- Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology, in order to improve ocean health and to enhance the contribution of marine biodiversity to the development of developing countries.
- Provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets.
- Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law.
It is true that a vast amount of the global population depends on the exploitation of the marine and coastal resources to live, whether it be as a food source or for employment. However, this must not be done at the expense of the oceans themselves. Oceans play an irreplaceable part on the circle of life and their dynamics directly or indirectly affect the dynamics of the entire planet.