Ushuaia Argentina, Long Beach BC, Newfoundland, Costa Rica, Cook Islands
There is no denying the beauty, wonder, power, and mystery of the oceans on planet Earth. Living in landlocked provinces, we are always in awe when we have a chance to visit the ocean to feel the spray and put our toes into the cool water, listen to the rhythm of the waves and smell the salt water. We all appreciate the beauty of the oceans, and their calming aura, but as humans, over the years, unfortunately, we have not been kind to our five oceans.
“For an amazing ecosystem that covers 70 percent of the planet, oceans get no respect”, according to Jessica Pink, who was an editorial intern for Conservation International. “All they’ve done is feed us, provide most of the oxygen we breathe, and protect us from ourselves: Were it not for the oceans, climate change would have already made Earth uninhabitable”.
“How? The oceans have gamely absorbed more than 90 percent of the warming created by humans since the 1970s, a 2016 report found. Had that heat gone into the atmosphere, global average temperatures would have jumped by almost 56 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). But as vast as the seas are, there is a limit to how much they can absorb, and they are beginning to show it.”
Human’s have affected the ocean through pollution such as plastics, over fishing, and destroying habitats such as removing mangrove forests, but most notably we have harmed the ocean as a result of reliance on fossil fuels causing climate change. Here are the 5 main ways that climate change is affecting the ocean:
Higher temperatures are bad for fish
“Persistently rising temperatures are having a cavalcade of effects on marine life. Consider:
- Warmer waters cause coral bleaching, which in turn impacts of coral reef systems that are home to most of the ocean’s biodiversity — and provide crucial sources of food for people.
- Warmer waters threaten to cause mass migration of marine species in search of the right conditions for feeding and spawning.
- Change in water temperatures can directly affect the development and growth of most fish and cephalopods (such as octopus and squid).
For the 3 billion people worldwide who rely on fish as their chief source of protein, the prospect of fewer and smaller fish in the sea is bad news.”
Polar ice is melting
“In what has become a dismal annual ritual, wintertime Arctic sea ice continues to dip to new lows as the oceans warm. Meanwhile, Antarctica is shrinking from underneath, as submerged ice is rapidly melting, according to recent studies.”
“The effects of this warming on iconic species such as polar bears are well documented. Under the surface, though, the problem is no less urgent. Consider:
- The production of algae — the foundation of the Arctic food web — depends on the presence of sea ice. As sea ice diminishes, algae diminishes, which has ripple effects on species from Arctic cod to seals, whales and bears.
- Diminished sea ice results in the loss of vital habitat for seals, walruses, penguins, whales and other megafauna.
- Sea ice is a critical habitat for Antarctic krill, the food source for many seabirds and mammals in the Southern Ocean. In recent years, as sea ice has diminished, Antarctic krill populations have declined, resulting in declines in the species dependent on the krill.
What does this mean for us? Impacts to the Arctic cod fishery is having cascading effects, culminating in human-wildlife conflict, for one. A dramatic decrease in sea ice — and seafood — pushes polar bears toward coastal communities and hunting camps to find food, a nuisance and danger to people living there.”
Rising sea levels represent a slow, seemingly unstoppable threat
“Climate change poses a dual threat for sea levels.”
“For one, when land-based polar ice melts, it finds its way to the sea. (Ice that forms in polar seas, on the other hand, doesn’t affect sea levels when it melts.) Second, when water warms, it expands to take up more space — a major yet unheralded cause of sea-level rise.”
“With sea-level rise accelerating at a rate of about one eighth of an inch per year, the effects on humanity are plain:
- Though only 2 percent of the world’s land lies at or below 10 meters (32 feet) above sea level, these areas contain 10 percent of the world’s human population, all directly threatened by sea-level rise.
- Small island nations such as those in the Pacific Ocean stand to be wiped off the map. The people of Kiribati, for example, are among the world’s first refugees of sea-level rise, and two of the nation’s islands have all but disappeared into the ocean.”
“The effects of sea-level rise on wildlife is less explored but no less important:
- The survival of coral reefs, mangroves, sea grasses and other critical habitat-forming species hinges on their ability to move into shallower waters. Slow-growing species are most unlikely to be able to keep pace with the rising sea level.
- Critical coastal habitats — for instance, sea turtle nesting beaches -are lost as sea levels rise. Natural and man-made barriers such as cliffs, sea walls, and coastal developments stand in the way of migrating further inland.”
Warming oceans alter currents
“Climate change impacts ocean temperatures as well as wind patterns — taken together, these can alter oceanic currents. In the Caribbean Sea this year alone, there have been over 25 hurricanes, a record number, with unmeasurable amount of damage to people living in their path.”
“How does this affect wildlife? As mentioned earlier, many marine species’ migratory patterns can change as the currents they follow are altered. And many species that depend on ocean currents for reproduction and nutrients will be affected. For example, many reef-building coral and reef fish species rely on dispersal of their larvae by currents.”
“The impacts of changes in ocean currents on humanity could be severe, as currents play a major role in maintaining Earth’s climate. For example, Europe’s relatively mild climate is maintained in part by the large Atlantic current called the Gulf Stream, which is experiencing an “unprecedented slowdown.” Changing these currents will have major implications for the climate across the globe, including changes in rainfall — with more rain in some areas and much less in others — and to air temperatures. These changes have drastic implications for countless species, including humans.”
Climate change is affecting the chemistry of seawater
“The same burning of fossil fuels that increases greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, is also altering the chemical composition of seawater, making it more acidic. The ocean absorbs 30 percent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; when that carbon dissolves into the water, it forms carbonic acid.”
“How does this affect marine life? A lot. Acidification directly affects ocean life that build shells of calcium carbonate such as corals, scallops, lobsters and crabs, and some microscopic plankton that are a foundation of the food web throughout the ocean. These shell-forming organisms provide critical habitats and food sources for other organisms. Increased acidification can also limit the ability of certain fish to detect predators, disrupting the food chain.”
“The disruption and destruction of coral reefs and shellfish will have profound effects on humanity, chiefly in the form of less food for people who rely on the ocean for it.”
Actions We Take for our Oceans
Reducing Carbon Emissions is the Most Meaningful Thing We Can Do
Meeting the targets of the 2016 Paris Agreement and preventing the warming to the planet by more than 1.5 degrees will require action at international, national, local, community and personal levels around the world but simply is the most meaningful thing we can do for our oceans.
GOOD NEWS: A recent article in CBC What on Earth October 29, 2020 states: “Reducing carbon emissions is key to fighting climate change, and in recent years, countries have been taking steps to lessen their greenhouse gases (with varying degrees of sincerity and success). The COVID-19 pandemic, however, appears to have hastened the trend. By forcing the world into a collective quarantine (more or less), some have estimated the pandemic could cut this year’s projected global emissions by seven per cent, including a whopping 40 percent in ground transportation (largely the result of work-from-home requirements). As a result of a significant drop in fossil fuel demand, particularly coal, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons that we may have reached peak emissions in 2019. If this proves to be true, it doesn’t mean that the planet won’t continue to warm in the coming years. But it gives environmentalists and people in the green energy sector hope that the transition to a low-carbon economy is well underway.”
Blue Carbon Offset Calculator
“ “Blue Carbon’ is the carbon dioxide captured by the world’s ocean and coastal ecosystems. This carbon is stored in the form of biomass and sediments from mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrass meadows. Like trees on the land, blue carbon may provide a method for the long-term sequestration and storage of carbon.”
“The Ocean Foundation has created the “SeaGrass Grow Carbon Calculator” which helps an individual or organization calculate its annual CO2 emissions to, in turn, determine the amount of blue carbon necessary to offset them (acres of seagrass to be restored or the equivalent). The revenue from the blue carbon credit mechanism can be used to fund restoration efforts, which in turn generate more credits. Such programs allow for two wins: creation of a quantifiable cost to global systems of CO2-emitting activities and, second, restoration of seagrass meadows that form a critical component of coastal ecosystems and are in sore need of recovery.”
Here is the link to the SeaGrass Grow Carbon Calculator: https://oceanfdn.org/calculator/
Eat Sustainable Seafood
Images from Newfoundland
“We can choose to eat sustainable seafood and help protect the ocean food web. The way some seafood products are caught or farmed can harm the ocean — both wildlife and the ecosystems they call home. In Canada, SeaChoice is the organization that monitors sustainability and labeling of sustainability of the fish and seafood for sale. This organization is made up of 3 groups: The David Suzuki Foundation, The Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society. SeaChoice found just 11 percent of seafood available in Canada in 2016 was rated as a “best choice. They are calling on the federal government to require far more detailed information and third-party verification to justify the use of “sustainable” or “responsible” in seafood labelling. SeaChoice wants labelling like those in the European Union which states: scientific name, where it was caught or farmed, the production method and gear type or farming method. When you buy fish at your local store, ask where it is from and how it is caught.”
“There is progress being make in the selling of sustainable products in Canada as a result of demands being put on the retailers. Unfortunately some sustainability labelling cannot be verified, especially as it applies to canned tuna.”
The good news is that all the products in Canada with eco-certification were proven sustainably harvested. So, note to self, look for the certification. On a package of frozen shrimp at home I looked and found the labels: Ocean Friendly/Sustainability/ Seafood Forever Responsibly Sourced. It is really important to buy shrimp with a green label on the package as many shrimp are grown in areas of the world where mangrove trees have been cut down, and so the environmental impact of eating such shrimp is considered 10 times worse than eating beef!!!!! Uggg!!!! So much to know!!! And according to a Chatelaine article listed below, “Seafood export is a huge industry in southeast Asia, but human-rights problems are rampant, including chattel slavery (forced labour) and child labour. And because of Canada’s lax labelling, something may be labelled as “product of Canada” but that could just mean the last place of processing. There are a few sustainable Canadian shrimp farms out there, however, including Ontario’s Planet Shrimp and British Columbia’s Berezan Shrimp, which sell their products mostly at fishmongers and high-end grocers. And avoid the cheap shrimp rings!
Don’t Assume Wild is Superior to Farmed.
In Chatelaine “How To Shop For Fish And Seafood Without Wrecking The Planet-–(Buying fish can feel like an ethical land mine. Here’s what to look for at the grocery store.)” by Matthew HallidayUpdated August 1, 2019
“We need farmed seafood if we’re going to feed the planet,” says Langley, and properly farmed seafood is far better than unsustainably harvested wild food. Fish farming’s bad rap is due in large part to offshore, open-net pens, which allow waste, chemicals, pesticides and parasites like sea lice to become concentrated in one area, or enter the wild. They also create the potential for farmed fish to pass disease to wild populations nearby, or even escape.
In the past few years, technological advances have made land-based aquaculture—which eliminates the risk of escapes and interaction with wild populations—much more cost-effective. The most sustainable are recirculating systems, which filter and recirculate water in a tank, making them not only ocean-friendly, but far less water-intensive. Land-based aquaculture, as a rule, is a much better choice offshore farms. When in doubt, look for an ASC certification.
“Greepeace Canada grades and ranks different brands of tuna based on whether they:
- Have a sustainability policy.
- Avoid using tuna from threatened stocks and those caught using “destructive” fishing methods.
- Are able to trace the tuna they use to its source.
- Promote marine reserves and domestic, coastal fisheries.
- Use comprehensive and clear labelling.
Top grade goes to two brands: Raincoast Trading and Wild Planet but Greenpeace also reports that more brands are becoming sustainable such as: Gold Seal, Ocean’s and Our Compliments from Safeway.”
Consider a Donation to Organizations such as The Ocean Foundation
While doing this research for this blog we were impressed to learn about this organization and all they do. We are not endorsing them, just letting you learn about the scope of all they do. “The Ocean Foundation (T.O.F.) and its current staff have been working on oceans and climate change issues since 1990; on Ocean Acidification since 2003; and on related “blue carbon” issues since 2007. As mentioned above, The Ocean Foundation hosts the Blue Resilience Initiative that seeks to advance policy that promotes the roles coastal and ocean ecosystems play as natural carbon sinks, i.e. blue carbon.”
“The Ocean Foundation staff serve on the advisory board for the Collaborative Institute for Oceans, Climate and Security, and The Ocean Foundation is a member of the Ocean and Climate Platform. Since 2014, T.O.F. has provided ongoing technical advice on the Global Environment Facility (GEF) International Waters focal area that enabled the GEF Blue Forests Project to provide the first global-scale assessment of the values associated with coastal carbon and ecosystem services. T.O.F. is currently leading a seagrass and mangrove restoration project at the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in close partnership with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.”
Reduce Additional Threats to the Ocean
Simultaneously, it is important to the health of the ocean—and us—that additional threats are avoided, and that our marine ecosystems are managed thoughtfully. Some examples of additional threats are: the garbage heap of plastics (as was blogged about last week), lost and discarded fishing nets that lethally snare fish, seabirds and marine mammals as they drift, or ships that spill oil and garbage, and the transporting of critters to alien habitats unprepared for their arrival, turning them into invasive species, and fertilizer runoff from farms that turn vast swaths of ocean into dead zones.
“It is also clear that by reducing the immediate stresses from excess human activities, we can increase the resilience of ocean species and ecosystems. In this way, we can invest in ocean health and its “immune system” by eliminating or reducing the myriad of smaller ills from which it suffers.
Support the Planting of Kelp, Seaweed, Coral, and Mangroves (just like we do with trees!!!)
Restoring abundance of ocean species—of mangroves, of seagrass meadows, of corals, of kelp forests, of fisheries, of all ocean life—will help the ocean continue to provide the services on which all life depends.”
Recently we saw a documentary showing environmentalists working to restore the Great Barrier Reef, by planting new coral, something we never imagined was possible. As well, the World Economic Forum is launching an aquaculture drive off the coast of B.C. where there is strong potential for the development of commercial shellfish and seaweed aquaculture that can help salmon farmers. (SeaWestNews).
Ocean and Climate Change
National Geographic Doc: THE LAST ICE
Also follow OCEAN WISE at Ocean.org. This Canadian Company’s mission is “to protect and restore the world’s oceans, and to inspire the global community to become Ocean Wise by increasing its understanding, wonder and appreciation for our oceans”