Six Selfish Reasons You Don't Want Dead Oceans

A Big Shrimp photo

Photo by via flickr.

TreeHugger asked Andrew Sharpless, CEO for the Oceana ocean protection organization, why we really personally care about the health and fate of the world's big water bodies. Many of us, after all, live far from the coast. TH asked Sharpless to please tell us how and why the health of the oceans affects each of us directly.

Here are his replies:

Taiwan Seafood Display

1. You May Eat Seafood, Too.

"First of all, you get most of your seafood from the oceans," Sharpless said. "So if you enjoy seafood, the health of the oceans should be very important to you." In fact, right now is a good time to help save the Gulf seafood industry by actually indulging in its products. Many delicacies including Gulf oysters, and wild-caught Gulf shrimp, are available in stores and according to NPR, there are three tiers of protection to help make sure seafood affected by the spill doesn't make it to market.

Fishing Boat Graveyard in China photo

2. And Even If You Don't, Someone Else May Want To.

If you are concerned about hunger and feeding the world's burgeoning population, you should be very concerned about keeping our oceans healthy. Over a billion people, most of them very poor, rely on seafood as a major source of protein, Sharpless says.

Morocco Blue Boats photo
Photo by stanrandom via flickr.

3. Fishermen Aren't the Only Water Workers.

If you are worried about the economy and jobs, you should care about the ocean. "Hundreds of millions of jobs around the world - ranging from fishermen to lifeguards - depend on healthy seas and fisheries," Sharpless said. The current economic situation in the Gulf, where jobs are being lost and businesses are folding due to the ongoing oil spill, is proof positive that a body of water is only an economic engine when it stays healthy. Sharpless says over 200 million people worldwide rely on the ocean's bounty for their livelihoods.

Coral Reef photo
Photo by Jerry Reid, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia via flickr.

4. Oceans Are A Climate Change Temp Control.

"The oceans play a large role in regulating the planet's temperature," Sharpless says, "making them crucial to helping us combat climate change." Since the Industrial Revolution, the oceans have absorbed 30 percent of the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere, moderating and masking its global impact. Eventually, Sharpless explains, the oceans may not be able to absorb as much carbon dioxide, hastening climate change. And, this excess carbon is already making the oceans more acidic, and making it more difficult for coral reefs, phytoplankton and shellfish to form their shells. This includes many animals that are the base of the marine food chain and critical to the oceans' overall health. Coral reefs in particular, the nurseries of the seas and home to a quarter of all marine life, could be devastated by acidifying oceans.

But couldn't oceans soak up CO2 even if they were overfished and polluted? To a certain degree, Sharpless replied. "As long as you don't kill all the photoplankton, the oceans will continue to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. So overfishing is not likely to have a direct impact on the ability of the oceans to help regulate the climate of the planet. Pollution is another matter, since some forms of pollution can clobber the microscopic algae-like plants that grow in the ocean and which pull down a lot of CO2."

Photo by Tim Calver via Oceana.

5. Collapse Is No Fun for Coastal Tourists.

"if you enjoy going to the ocean," Sharpless says, "and enjoying the wonder of the seas, you should care about what is happening. We are on the verge of a collapse- because of overfishing and pollution. If we lose the life that forms the basis of so much of our oceans, everything else that depends on it is going to change. This is already happening in places like the Costa del Sol where famous beaches are now periodically, overrun by swarms of jellyfish, in places like Cape Cod where cod is now only a memory, in famous diving spots like Shark Ray Alley in Belize where there are few sharks to be found."

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp photo
Photo Jim Brickett via flickr.

6. Saving Oceans Saves Your Bacon...Literally.

According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, 29% of the fish in the world are used as food for animals or for other fish, Sharpless explains. After aquaculture, much of it gets fed to pigs and to chickens. A smaller portion goes into pet foods and pharmaceuticals. Since 1981, the proportion of fishmeal used in aquaculture has been increasing. "So the answer is fishing does connect to your (ham) steak and bacon, and in a direct way," Sharpless said. "If the world's wild fisheries continue their collapse, there will likely be price increases in store for you at the pork and chicken counter."

See some great ocean clips at TreeHugger:
Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Our Oceans (Hint: We're Screwed)
TED Talk: Ocean Photographer Brian Skerry Reveals Amazing Images (Video)
TED Talk - Edith Widder Discovers New Deep Sea Life By Mimicking Bioluminescence (Video)

Six Selfish Reasons You Don't Want Dead Oceans
TreeHugger asked Andrew Sharpless, CEO for the Oceana ocean protection organization, why we really personally care about the health and fate of the world's big water bodies. Many of us, after all, live far from

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