Managing Marine Ecosystems
We know that the biodiversity of the world is being threatened and that much of the cause can be attributed to human activity. One of the hardest ecosystems to manage is the marine environment. Its international borders are continuous and with fish, mammals, and pollution are constantly moving in between making the problem and the solutions a matter of international concern. The dense populations that live along the coast only exacerbate marine problems. In 2006, nearly half of the world’s population lived along or near the coast.
So what human activities are threatening our expansive resources of the sea? Here they are.
• Coastal development (both residential and commercial) destroys coastal habitats by increasing the effects of erosion and run-off of sediments and potential pollutants. The world has already observed half of the coastal wetlands eradicated due to agricultural and urban development.
• Overfishing is depleting the populations of commercial fishing species. While many international countries are lawfully bound by regulations, the enforcement and inadequacy of these laws is a major problem.
• In agricultural corridors, runoff of nonpoint source pollution such as fertilizers, pesticides, livestock wastes and eroded soil sediment from the land impacts coastal waters.
• Point-source pollution such as sewage from passenger cruise ships and oil tankers impacts ecosystems along the coast.
• Trawler fishing boats drag nets along the ocean bottom causing massive descturtion of the sea bottom while catching and killing untargeted fish and countless other endangered marine life.
• Invasive species deplete the populations of native aquatic species and cause severe economic and ecological damage.
• Climate change, which has caused a rise in sea level, negatively impacts coral reef and flood coastal marshes. At least twenty percent of coral reefs are severely damaged while up to half the remaining habitat is threatened. Rising waters have already caused many beaches to erode.
So what can we do to reduce our impact on the degradation of marine ecosystems? Experts recommend that making informed and responsible consumer decisions can do a great deal for conserving the sea. Regardless of where you live, we can all avoid eating over-exploited fish. For those that live in a coastal area be sure to support local marine conservation organizations and get involved with local government to help ensure that local marine habitats are considered in zoning and development plans.
For more on marine conservation, visit this site.