The Sorrow Beneath The Sea
I read an article last week by Newsweek. It was their cover story as part of World Oceans Day, on June 8th.
Read it if you can. It’s a startling article and it paints a very depressing picture for our oceans. Callum Roberts, the author of the article and Professor of Marine Conservation in the University of York said that within 40 years we could face an ocean without fish - a catastrophe for humanity.
Gallery: Ocean Species on the brink
Photo by H. Segars
There is only one leatherback turtle left in the Pacific for every 20 in 1962. It is quite possible that we could drive the leatherback to extinction within a generation.
A phenomenon called “shifting baseline syndrome” is when we take for granted things that were inconceivable generations ago. It explains that we expect reduced number of fishes and smaller species as the norm compared to previous decades. So we pretty much have no idea what was a good catch back then. The exception might be commercial fishermen who have steadily watched their catch change in type and size due to overfishing.
Human impact on the oceans have caused significant change, often to disastrous consequences. Overfishing, release of pollutants and fossil fuel burning are some of the primary causes of that change and it is happening at an alarming rate.
The carbon dioxide released by human activity that have been absorbed by our oceans, around 30 percent, leads to a rise in ocean acidity. And this rise is growing exponentially, making life underwater difficult and unsustainable.
Photo by Nancy Boucha
The practice of obtaining a shark’s fins and dumping the rest to the ocean so that humans could enjoy a highly priced soup is leading to a dumping ground of de-finned, rotting sharks in the Pacific Ocean.
Overfishing, in which we take from the ocean more that it can produce and replace itself, will lead to a scarce and depleted ocean. Numerous fish species have declined rapidly due overfishing and certain fish species that are caught can’t be sustained in fisheries due to their reproduction rate.
The jellyfish, which was prominently displayed in the Newsweek cover (top most photo), is the winner in the change caused by human impact. They are thriving in the polluted seas and with less predators to bother them they will continue thriving turning into empires.
Callum Roberts said this at the end of the article and I believe it rings true to every aspect of human impact on earth. He said “if we change course by a few degrees, it will take us to a very different place in 50 years’ time from where we are headed now.