Our Changing Ocean
Vast and powerful though the ocean is, people have changed it. It’s a different ocean now. The ocean’s enduring surface beauty hides its plight. But the ocean today is a diminished version of a much healthier ocean of not so long ago. The ocean is the source of about half the oxygen we breathe, much of the water we drink, and much of the food we eat. (If you don’t eat fish, consider this: about a third of the world fish catch gets made into feed for chickens, pigs, and other livestock.)
Changes to the ocean undermine the health and well-being of people and wildlife worldwide. These changes include depletion from overfishing, warming, ocean acidification caused by the same carbon dioxide that is warming the atmosphere and the upper sea, chemical pollution, plastic debris, loss of wetlands, coastal mangrove forests, and coral reefs, and invasive species. Each of these alone is serious. Can any particular part of the oceans survive these things happening all at once? The answer is: “it depends.” There is still time to reverse course and restore the ocean to a healthy balance.
Many dedicated people and organizations, including The Safina Center, are working actively to solve the oceans’ problems. Be a part of this hopeful work. Jump in and help save the oceans! Dive into our Issues section to learn more. Being knowledgeable will help you decide what part of the solution is just for you.
Why the Oceans?
Simple: because the ocean supports life on this planet. It feeds us, produces the oxygen we breathe, maintains our climate, cycles vital nutrients through countless ecosystems and provides food and medicines. The ocean provides jobs, food, energy, and recreation. As if that weren’t enough, the ocean is beautiful and inspiring. And that would be enough. […]
Climate change is the defining environmental issue of our time and our children’s time. Into one crowded elevator go conservation of nature, human health, the prospects for agriculture, international stability, national security, and of course energy policy and technology. Climate change reflects our intensifying presence on the surface of this planet. It wraps together everything […]
Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is changing the oceans’ chemistry. This is ocean acidification. The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls ocean acidification global warming’s equally evil twin. The oceans are absorbing up to a million tons of carbon dioxide every hour. The good news: less carbon dioxide in the air […]
Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is not only changing the oceans’ chemistry and warming the atmosphere, it is also warming the oceans. There’s a third more carbon dioxide in the air than at the start of the Industrial Revolution. The carbon acts like insulation in the atmosphere, or like glass in a greenhouse — […]
Overfishing is depleting the world’s oceans and having a negative impact on marine biodiversity and on human health, welfare, and prosperity. Links to more complete info in our Fish as Food section.
In the ocean, little fish play a big role. Small fish like sardines and anchovies are some of the most important fish in the sea. Fish such as herring, anchovies, menhaden, and sardines feed mostly on plankton all their lives. They supply calories and nourishment (food!) for many top predators including cod, tuna, salmon, and […]
Invasive Marine Species
Invasive species are animals and plants that hitchhike or ride along to places where they are not normally found. In their new homes, invasive species can sometimes create big problems for native species and ecosystems. The main source of marine invasive species is the global shipping industry, specifically through ballast water. Species can also be […]
Marine debris comes from everyone and every source that makes every kind of garbage. Tons of trash from both land – up to 80 percent — and ships constantly finds its way to the sea. Much of this marine debris does not go away; it cannot dissolve and it lasts in the oceans for many […]
Coastal Habitat Loss
Homes, jetties, seawalls, canals, and other structures built on beaches or wetlands often destroy habitat for sea turtles, birds, fish, and other sea life. Salt and tidal marshes, wetlands, mangroves, and coral reefs also suffer when development is unsustainable. Wetlands, mangroves and sea grasses are valuable natural resources as they hold sediment and nutrients, filter […]
In addition to carbon dioxide, mercury, and marine debris, which are types of pollution, other man made pollutants constantly enter the oceans from a range of sources. These include oil, fertilizers, toxic chemicals, and sewage. OIL & CHEMICALS Oil spills may be the most infamous pollutant because popular media often vividly shows dramatic damage. The […]
Aquaculture – Farmed Seafood
Aquaculture can impact many aspects of ocean life. Visit Aquaculture in our Fish as Food section which also includes sustainable seafood choices plus discussions about genetically modified fish, seafood fraud, bycatch, and more.