Threats to Oceans

Page - March 17, 2008
Our oceans once seemed like an infinite resource, but today, they face so many threats, that their future is in question.

We know less about our oceans than we do about outer space, but our activities threaten to destroy oceans that were once teeming with life.

Take action and stand up for the oceans and ocean wildlife.

The key threats facing our oceans include:

You may believe that we saved the whales in the 1980's. But Japan has been using a loophole in international law to conduct "scientific research" on whales for years. Each year, the Japanese government slaughters 850 minke whales. This year, they have announced plans to expand their "research" to kill 50 endangered humpback whales, and 50 endangered fin whales, in addition to their usual minke slaughter.

Beneath the serene beauty of our ocean waters lurks a nightmare worse than any Jaws movie. Entire populations of fish are being targeted and destroyed, disrupting the food chain from top to bottom. Overfishing happens when the amount of fish caught exceeds the amount of fish needed to sustain fish stocks in a given region.

Giant factory ships are using state-of-the-art equipment to locate and literally vaccuum entire schools of fish out of the water. These industrial fishing fleets target one species at a time, until numbers are so low, that they turn to another species, decimating the entire ocean food chain and threatening the very future of our oceans.

Ancient forests in danger ... deep under the ocean. Biologists estimate that somewhere between 500,000 and 5,000,000 marine species have yet to be discovered. Many of these species are in serious danger from the world's most destructive fishing practice - bottom trawling.

Global warming impacts all life on Earth, and the oceans are no exception. From coral bleaching to sea level rise and higher ocean temperatures, entire ecosystems are rapidly changing, and animals are having a difficult time surviving the impacts. The effects are already beginning to be felt.  Whole species of marine animals and fish are at risk due to the temperature rise - they simply cannot survive in the changed conditions.

Every year, fishing nets kill up to 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises around the world. Fishing nets pose the greatest threat to the survival of many species. In fact, some fishing practices destroy entire habitats, as well as inhabitants. Bottom trawling is a fishing method that drags heavy metal chains across the ocean floor, destroying ancient deep-sea coral forests and other delicate ecosystems.

Aquaculture (farming fish and shellfish) is often called the future of the seafood industry. But shrimp farming is perhaps the most destructive, unsustainable and unjust fishery in the world. The salmon farming industry also proves fish farming is no solution - it takes approximately 4kgs of wild caught fish to produce 1kg of farmed salmon.

Our oceans have become a dumping ground for a wide variety of pollutants, including pesticides and nutrients from agriculture, sewage, industrial discharges, urban and industrial run-off, accidents, spillage, explosions, sea dumping operations, mining, waste heat sources, and radioactive discharges.

Armed and masked, scouring the oceans, stealing food from hungry families - modern day pirates are a far cry from the glamour of Hollywood movies. But they are a multi billion-dollar reality for many communities that can least afford to be robbed.