Threats to our Oceans

Oceans are essential for our existence, but they are under threat.
Join us in a quick peek at what these are and what we can do.

Oceans regulate our climate, provide oxygen, food, trap excess carbon from our atmosphere, among others. They also play a key role in our economies, leisure time, and mental health. So, it is pretty safe to say that for a healthy planet we need healthy oceans, right? Yet, they are under threat.  The list of threats to our oceans is extensive, to say the least, in this post we will briefly point out a few of these.

Marine Pollution:

About an 80% of the pollution running into our seas comes form land-based activities, i.e. excess of nutrients and pesticides used in agriculture end up in coastal waters. (VanderZwaag and Powers 2008, IISD)  But Marine pollution has many different forms and shapes, here are a few:

  • Ocean noise:
            Sound waves travel faster and farther in water than in air. Many marine organisms, like dolphins and whales, rely on communication by sound to find food, navigate, and mate (dosits). Noise coming from high intensity sonars used in military operations, highly powered air guns used for oil drills, engine sounds, etc. are altering the underwater soundscape. These alterations have been found responsible of whale beaching and disorientation. (NOAA) (NRDC)
Whale hug, ocean
"Mom and Calf love" by Simone Matucci.
  • Ocean acidification:
            From air pollution to land-based runoff, an excess of carbon emissions is flooding our oceans. Sea water absorbs much of the carbon emissions pumped into the atmosphere. An increase in carbon dissolved in water increases its’ acidity and this creates a change in the chemical balance of the oceans. This chemical unbalance impacts all processes that are particularly sensitive to acidity, such as: growth and the ability of organisms to build their skeletons (i.e. corals) or shells (i.e. mussels urchins) as well as creating an impact in chemical communication, which might lead to possible behavioural changes, as well as an impact in reproduction (Smithsonian Institute).
  • Oil Spills:
            These are generally due to accidents involving tankers, drilling rigs, pipelines, etc, even though they also come from the smaller scale spills from smaller boats. These impact heavily on all marine organisms whether they are in direct or indirect contact with the spill. For example,  fur-bearing mammals, when covered in oil, loose their insulation ability leading in many cases to hypothermia; juvenile sea-turtles get trapped in it and in some cases they even ingest it as they confuse it for food; birds loose the water repellency trait of their feathers, leading to hypothermia; dolphins and whales, may inhale the oil when trying to breath, and many other animals ingest it when trying to clean up, leading to poisoning. Bottom dwelling organisms, like corals, fish and shellfish, may come in contact with the oil once this mixes with the water column and reaches their habitat down the water column (NOAA).
Bird affected by Oil Spill
  • Plastic:
            Plastic is emblematic of our unethical consumerism; cheap, durable and disposable. It has been found on every corner of the earth and it is the majority of the garbage entering our oceans All 5 Ocean Gyres, large systems of ocean currents formed by global wind patterns and forces exerted by Earths rotation, are inundated with plastic. The largest one to date is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with an extension of 1.6 million km2 , that is 3 times the size of France (The Ocean Cleanup). The problem with plastics is that they are non-degradable, they simply break down into smaller pieces and become micro plastic floating in the oceans being ingested by fish and other organisms. Once plastic is ingested it may create intestinal damage and lead to death. Other organisms get trapped in the plastic and may choke in it, such is the case of birds, seals, turtles, etc. (National Geographic, National Geographic).
  • Cigarette butts:
            They have long been the single most collected item on the worlds’ beaches, over 62 million cigarette butts have been collected from beaches over the past 32 years (NBC). Cigarette butts may be small, but are terrible for the environment; they take up to a decade to degrade, but before turning into micro plastic they leach nicotine and heavy metals into the environment. Marine life can confuse them with food, ingest them and choke or get their intestines blocked and starve to death (National Geographic).
The five great Ocean Gyres of the world . - Infographic obtained from Harvard University

Global Warming:
    The oceans absorb most of the excess heat from the greenhouse gas emissions leading to an increase in the Oceans temperature. This increase in temperature leads to a rise in sea level due to the melting of ice caps as well as a change in ocean chemistry and processes such as ocean acidification and a decrease in dissolved oxygen. These changes have a direct impact on marine species, ecosystems and habitats; leading to bleaching events and species migrating to find more suitable habitats (i.e. coral bleaching, polar bears) (IUCN)

    Overfishing is the act of “taking wildlife from the sea at rates too high for fished species to replace themselves” (Oceanos). Oceans provide 15% of the worlds protein intake. 66% of the fisheries  are found in poor health, this being overfished or with further overfishing occurring. 90% of large fish have disappeared. With time industrial fishing operations have supplanted local boatmen. Fishing techniques have evolved to catch as much fish as possible but hey have also evolved to be non-selective and destructive. We find ourselves at a point where global fish stocks could collapse, leading to the disappearance of what we know as our oceans today (FAO).

Photo obtained from NRDC / rbouwman.


The list of Threats to our Oceans continues, but we simply wanted to give you a quick overlook of what our Blue Planet is facing. We believe we can still take action to bring some changes, here are some of our thoughts on possible actions to be taken in order to help our oceans:

  • Better and more extense fisheries management policies.
  • Decrease our carbon emissions.
  • Find and promote more carbon sinks (i.e. plant and regrow mangroves and seagrass beds).
  • Limit greenhouse emissions.
  • Plastic use regulations.
  • Offer money in return for collected cigarette butts.
  • Strengthen scientific research.
  • Reduce your plastic footprint:
    • Say NO to: plastic straws, cutlery, bags, microbeads.
    • Say YES to: reusable cups, carry your own shopping bags.
And remember, our daily actions matter too.

Oceans – Their importance

In our first blog we aim to give you a brief idea of why our Oceans are so important and why we need to protect them. 

Oceans cover over a 70% of the Earth’s Surface (NOAA) and contain around a 97% of the Earth’s water. But even though they are so large it is estimated that 80% of the oceans remain unmapped, unobserved and unexplored (NOAA). This unknown territory is crucial to our existence and we need to bet for Marine Conservation strategies to help protect our blue planet. Protecting the unknown is harder than protecting what we are familiar with, through our posts we hope to make this liquid world a bit less of a stranger for you.


Their importance to life:

They produce around 80% of the oxygen we breath (EOS). How? Due to photosynthetic organisms, phytoplankton and seaweed, living in the oceans. Photosynthesis is a process through which these organisms (living both in the oceans and on land) turn water and carbon dioxide, with the energy provided by the sun, into carbohydrates (used as food by these organisms) and oxygen. These photosynthetic organisms have been producing oxygen for billions of years, in fact the oldest fossil found is of a cyanobacterium (a tiny-blue photosynthetic organism) which is 3.5 billion years old. In fact, it is estimated that Prochlorococcus, a cyanobacteria, is the most abundant photosynthetic organism on the planet and produces about 20% of the oxygen in the atmosphere (Oceans S.I.).

Not only do oceans produce oxygen but they are very important carbon sinks. A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that absorbs and stores the atmospheres carbon through physical or biological mechanisms. Biological-pumps transfer surface carbon towards the seabed through the food-web; Physical-pumps transfer the carbon as a result of ocean circulation. Oceans are estimated to store 50 times more carbon that the atmosphere (Ocean and Climate Platfom).

Oceans Regulate the Climate and Weather on the Earth. They help keep the planet warm as most sun radiation is absorbed by the oceans, in particular at the equator, imagine them as being giant heat retaining panels. Land also absorbs heat but in less amounts. As oceans retain heat, their temperature increases and this causes water to evaporate therefore increasing the temperature, and humidity, of the surroundings. This increase in temperature and humidity creates rain and storms, giving back to the land the so needed fresh water. How does the warmer water from the equator move around the world? Thanks to the ocean currents, they act as conveyor belts taking the warm water and precipitation from the equator towards the poles and, the cold water from the poles towards the tropics. These currents regulate our global climate and without them regional temperatures would be more extreme and less of the earth’s surface would be uninhabitable (NOAA).

Infographic obtained from NOAA.


Their importance to our economies:

Our economies depend greatly on the ocean, so largely that a concept has been created to describe the wide range of activities related to the exploitation of the marine environment – Ocean Economy.
The most conventional use of the oceans resources is through fisheries, 15% of the worlds protein intake is represented by fish. Our oceans are also an important source of energy and resources. Offshore platforms exploit the seabed in search of minerals, oil and gas. Renewable energies are starting to get more presence through offshore wind farms and the use of tidal and wave energy. Oceans are key in the transportation of goods and commerce, as well as offering large number of jobs (NOAA).


Their importance to our wellbeing:

When we think of the ocean we generally think of summertime, holidays and a great soothing feeling floods our bodies a completely normal and obvious association as the oceans are a key factor in our leisure time. Less known are the benefits brought to our health, it has been long observed that being near the sea has health benefits, it has been shown through several studies that people living or being near the ocean grow ill less often and experience lower levels of mental stress (SOPHIE).

Boat Diving Mallorca
Snorkellers enjoying the crystal clear waters of Cala Varques after a trip to the Pirate Cave.

All in all, Oceans sustain life as we know it. Thanks to them we can breath, they trap excess carbon in our atmosphere, keep our Earth with a nice and comfy weather, they provide us with food, jobs and help us stay calm in these crazy times. Without them we would not be here. So let’s give back to the Oceans a bit of what they give to us. Help us Protect them. Bet for Marine Conservation initiatives and push to get others aware of the importance of our Oceans.

Did you know …
  • The deepest point of the ocean lies at 11,030 meters, in the Mariana Trench located in the western Pacific Ocean.
  • The largest mountain range is the Mid-Ocean range, being about 50,000 km long, stretching from the Arctic to the Antarctic Oceans.
  • The largest living structure can be found in the oceans. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is about 2,300km long.
The Oceans are not only magnificent,
but also essential to our existence.
Help us protect them.