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An Ocean In Crisis

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Our earth used to be a lush and beautiful place, full of vibrant vegetation and unkindled species varying in size and home, yet due to human existence we have become an indistinguishable parasite further plaguing the planet for our own needs to survive generation after generation. Even though some of us really seek to do no harm, actions taken to improve ourselves have altered the ocean. By using fossil fuels to generate power, the fumes are disrupting the atmosphere allowing ultra violet rays to eradicate coral reefs. Our means of travel allow invasive species to hitch a ride to places they shouldn’t reside, and the means of feeding ourselves with Omega 3 and other ingredients are causing a downfall in some marine species because they weren’t meant to be eaten. Although ocean life has a long history of controversy, there are an increasing number of marine animals in crisis due to climate change, invasive species, and over fishing.

The most compelling evidence is climate change. It is caused by humans and has been around for about 218 years (Weart 2018) and its continuing to be ignored in American politics because the topic is seen as “irrelevant. ” Is it irrelevant when California is burning up in flames? Is it irrelevant when the ocean is plagued with corpses of fish and endangered species, like the manatee? This process began when the first industrial revolution was started. From 1800-1870 greenhouse gas began to increase in production with the use of coal and railroads (Weart 2018). As technology began to increase the greenhouse effect was discovered to be caused by the polluted air being trapped inside the atmosphere. Scientists began to realize that due to the amount of carbon dioxide it was beginning to show signs of a growing climate change. (Shaftel 2018) In 1870 we hit the second industrial revolution. This brought with it the discovery of fertilization, chemicals, and electricity. (Weart 2018) During this time humans were discovering ways to harness and control the use of this growing technology. Wars were waged for the use of fossil fuels, and resources were a must for an increasing population. With this, scientists were watching and predicting the cataclysmic occurrences which were to take place farther in the future involving the decrease in ice sheets from the Arctic and danger to the ozone layer (Weart 2018).

As a result from all these factors of the past, the ozone layer has met with incurable damage that has been affecting the ocean life. UV rays are having harsh impacts on the marine life. Marine life with higher vulnerability to the sun face changing behaviors. An example of this is the phytoplankton, because they are so vulnerable to too much UV. Their activities will change with their biochemical cycle of intaking the carbon dioxide (Przyborski 2001). In the Antarctic, due to the tears in the ozone layer, photosynthesis has gone down a small percentage due to the decrease in phytoplankton floating towards the surface (Przyborski 2001). This disruption has caused a change in the ecosystem in some parts because the organisms need to adapt to the new environment. Marine organisms that live in shallow water, like coral, face harsher times in the sun and experience bleaching that kills them off and provides no protection or sanctuary for animals that live there. The bleaching is caused from extremely hot temperature. This causes the coral to become stressed and eject their single celled algae, making them lose color and food source (Earth Journalism Network, 2016). In Australia. the Great Barrier Reef is in danger of completely dying due to the warming of the ocean water. As we continue to use fossil fuels we aren’t allowing the coral to recover. Without government support the heat stress on coral is growing due to the pollution and green gases (Winton 2018). When the greenhouse gases are absorbed by the ocean there aren’t enough phytoplankton to process the carbon dioxide into photosynthesis due to the UV rays. When the carbon dioxide isn’t filtered it raises the potential hydrogen of the water. The ocean has absorbed around 525 billion tons of CO2, a whopping 22 million tons per day since the industrial era (Bennet, 2018) Even though scientists believe in the natural way of getting rid of the carbon dioxide, like photosynthesis, it isn’t fast enough to catch up to the rapid absorption of the carbon dioxide (Bennet, 2018). Too much acidification alters generations of organisms with shells.

The acidity of the water makes the shells of some organism grow soft and deformed. Without that adaption the sea creatures are dying out. Shelled organisms need to grow through a process of collecting carbonate for their hydrogen ions, with the acidification it makes it harder for them to collect this key ingredient. They must spend more energy for that production instead of reproducing. (Bennet, 2018) The acidification has caused a lot of species to go extinct and has pushed them out of their homes because they are unable to adapt. When organisms try to reproduce they are unable to because the environment is unsafe to grow in. Under those circumstances, the warming of ocean water has given algae a large helping hand in reproducing. This reproduction is dangerous to a lot of sea organisms. The algal bloom blocks out the sun for plants on the sea floor and has had a poisonous impact on sea life. When an algal bloom occurs in an area inhabited by plant life they can cause dead zones due to the lack of oxygen (EPA, 2017). The algae alter the aquatic life habitats disrupting the number of organisms that can live there. Due to the lack of oxygen, they are unable to thrive and repopulate themselves in that area of water. It blocks out the sunlight for plants and once they die, they consume all the oxygen making it impossible for the plants below to gather it and thrive (EPA, 2017).

There are also harmful algal blooms that can release a toxin causing issues to coastal waters affecting both humans and sea life (EPA, 2017). An example of this would be the recent catastrophe, the Red Tide. The red tide is a phenomenon happening at this moment on the coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. The red tide is made up of a harmful algal bloom called Karenia Brevis. Karenia Brevis dominates its production in the Gulf of Mexico, it releases a toxin called brevetoxins that can cause respiratory irritation by the aerosols (Sweat, 2011). This bloom has not only affected fish, but also marine mammals like dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles. Many of these animals are Becerra 3 already close to extinction yet due to the constant use of greenhouse gases and pollution these animals might vanish sooner than we think. The rise of the red tide algal bloom is peculiar to any other bloom that has taken part in the past, so the information of when this will stop is unknown and the death rates of sea animals continue to pile on the beaches (NOAA, 2018).

At the same time, invasive species are being a nuisance to native species. With no natural predators to take them out they flourish and thrive causing further damage to the ecosystem knocking it off balance, yet how did they get there? The answer is rather simple. Humans. When humans created the first ships, invasive species got the help they needed to move about. In today’s models of boats and ships, the intruders can hide on the bottom of your boat, the hulls of a ship, in ballasts tanks, and live wells. Some invasive species can even be introduced because of aquarium purposes. Invasive species are an issue because the prove competition for native species and can take away needed resources for other species to survive on. They can destroy and disrupt ecosystems causing in the decrease in the abundance of native fish. Invasive species can come in different shapes, sizes, and species. They can be shellfish, plants, and starfish, yet without the regulation of invasive species native marine animals face a possible risk of extinction. Without the natural introduction into an environment, invasive species pose and aggressive threat in taking up too much space and making the native species “homeless”.

An example of invasive species is the lionfish and green crab. Lion fish are native to the Indo-pacific but have made their way into the oceans of the Atlantic, the ultimate culprit of why they could be there is none other than humans. It is hypothesized that they were set free because of aquarium issues (NOAA, 2018). They prove to be a problem in the Atlantic due to the lack of predators and stealing resources for a lot of commercial fish (NOAA, 2018). Since there are so many of them spreading around they are causing issues in reproduction for other species. Being carnivores, the lionfish eat the juveniles decreasing the population of a reef by 90% (Ocean Support, 2013). They also have an incredibly fast breeding rate, faster than the native species. Due to this factor, lionfish can take up more space and take more resources due to their ravenous hungers. By eating 30 times their stomach capacity (Ocean Support, 2013) lionfish are causing more stress for coral reefs. Without herbivores to eat the growing algae the corals health begins to plummet (NOAA, 2018) By the lionfish continuing to thrive it causes a lot of stress for every native around them, every organism works together to keep the ecosystem running but with the lionfish invading their system everything begins to crumble. The European green crab isn’t an innocent animal either, this crab also has a ravenous hunger and is a pest for fisheries. They are native in Europe yet have migrated far to Asia, North/South America, and Australia. (Tennessen 2011)

They migrated via ballast water from ships miles and miles around. (Tennessen 2011) The Green crab poses a threat to shorelines, resources, Becerra 4 and other species. Green crabs are quick to adapt to new environments to increase the amount of food it forages. (Conservation 2018) Mostly living on a diet of shellfish, this crab pushes out the competition with aggression and its ability to adapt faster than native species. The green crab is an ecological threat to a lot of native species having been wrecking living space for juvenile species. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2013) With the decrease in juveniles they are unable to increase the number of native species. By disrupting the amount of native species lurking there it disrupts the ecosystem by taking habitats. The destruction of the eelgrass is caused by the amount of digging the crab is doing to capture its prey. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2013). Last but not least, the amount of overfishing that is happening in the ocean and how it is affecting ocean life.

Over fishing is a concept when a large quantity of marine life is taken out for production before the species can repopulate. Overfishing is an issue all over the world, resulting in large amount of repopulation difficulties and possible cases of extinction. This is an issue not only to fish but to larger marine life as well. When the product is caught in a net there can usually involve complications, species not meant to be eaten can get caught and eventually die from stress and/or lack of motion. The use of nets is stressful to a lot of the larger animals because they can get caught in the traps meant to keep the production fish in close supervision. By taking too much fish it causes an imbalance in the ecosystem and the amount of prey left for bigger predators. The amount of recklessness and ignorance towards how these fish are handled is going unregulated. There are safer ways of getting the means of resources, yet they are greatly ignored.

The Atlantic bluefish tuna and species of ocean sturgeon are in danger due to the large amount of resources being farmed from them. Atlantic bluefish tuna has been facing a massive decline in population due to the amount of meat that can be produced from it. At a range of 500 pounds, this fish is a large score for industries in Japan (Evan 2014). Japan being a country mostly involved in eating fish, the large weight of the fish can spike sales. Although, with the increase in sales come the increase in need for this fish. This results in the over fishing. Industries trying to keep up with the supply and demand are taking too many tunas. With this rapid demand, the tunas are unable to reproduce enough juveniles to keep the population at a safe number (Evan 2014). Tunas spawn in the Mediterranean Sea, wide ranges of species gather here in the summer time and it poses a peak for fishing industries yet with this peak comes consequences. Even though the Atlantic Tuna has been regulated for repopulation, there are still actions of illegal fishing. Illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing is a common factor in the decrease of this tuna. Poor regulation allows fisheries to take more than there is needed, with illegal fishing taking 20% while fisheries take around 50%. The theft of these fish in large scales is disrupting abundance (WWF 2018).

Becerra 5 Sturgeon are a popular breed for the collection of roe that is soon turned into caviar. Caviar is the unfertilized egg of sturgeon. Caviar is an exotic item usually spiking in price range for this delicacy, yet with this production it has caused a lot of the species to become endangered. When extracting roe from the female sturgeon, it can involve the mutilation and death of this vibrant creature. When some species of sturgeon reach sexual maturity at an age between 6-25, it makes them more of a target for overfishing and poaching. (WWF 2017) This beautiful creature can live up to 100 years and grow around 7-12 ft yet with the 70% decline over the last century it seems we might not see some of them any more (WWF 2018). Even though caviar has become illegal in places like Bulgaria, there is still illegal trade occurring to continue the profit. Large quantities of caviar are being seized from areas that have placed a ban of their capture and harvestings. (Protect Danube’s Treasure, Unknown)

With the destruction of their breeding grounds and the lack of regulation, species like the Beluga sturgeon are endangered. Thus, the means of collecting goods for export always come with a consequence, from over fishing to bycatch. Bycatch is a concept where something that was not meant to be caught is caught in netting. Species affected by this usually involve sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, and sea birds. (WWF 2018) When netting is set out, or any form of fishing occurs, some instances can involve the capture of the wrong species. When not handled properly, the animal can become stressed and die, those that don’t get thrown overboard then eventually die. Not only that, but when animals become entangled by netting it causes them to stress out and entangled themselves even more. Soon they become so entangled that it stops their motion, with the lack of motion the eventually die. Some animals caught in the netting can swim away but are left with small, or large quantities of netting that can affect their eating, swimming, and day to day activities. Many species caught in netting soon become endangered. Some species of dolphin are endangered involving more action to be taken. (WWF 2018) In short, our Ocean is being killed and some of us are too dull to realize it. We would rather ignore the fact that climate change, invasive species, and overfishing are not taking place. Each step we take into a better life is affecting those around us.

The Ocean doesn’t have its own voice, so we have to be that voice, we have to take action so that generations after us can also have a better experience in the ocean than we have. Things deserve to live and we have no right to take that from them, there are better ways to get the resources we need. Looking into the ways of solar energy and increasing the production of biodegradable objects. Also having a safer practice of collecting caviar, an example of this would be gently massaging the eggs out of the vagina of the female sturgeon. This practice isn’t common in a lot of fisheries due to the means of faster processing of slitting open their bellies. Citizens can practice checking equipment for any means of hitchhiking species. Our ocean can be a better place with better supporting starting with all of us.

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