Why Do We Allow Pillage & Rapage on the High Seas?

When it comes to the environment the destruction of forests to make way for cattle ranches or soya plantations and the polluting of air from planes and smoke stack industries gets almost all of the attention. What is occurring at sea is also an outrage against humanity, but this destruction goes almost unreported. Here are the mains terrors occurring at sea.

1)      Shipping: The Forgotten Source of CO2

The CO2 emissions from shipping are double those of flying and are increasing at a dramatic rate. A study by the International Maritime Organisation predicts that they will increase by as much as 72% by 2020. They make up 5% of global emissions or twice as much as the UK and more than all the African countries combined.

Shipping has missed a lot of the attention that aviation has received from environmentalists. The reason why is simple; shipping is out of sight, it is an established industry and has a rather romantic image. Cheap flights on the other hand are more apparent in our daily lives and the marketing of weekend trips is a bit of a punch in the face for environmentalists. Just think about the £1 flights.

2)      Fish Stock Obliteration

The fish quotas that the EU has do not go far enough; many other countries lack any framework to control fishing at all. Increasing incomes and a need for protein have seen fish stocks plummet.

Greenpeace says that the only hope for many fish species is the creation of massive sanctuaries where fishing is totally banned.

We have national parks on the land but up until now very few have become reality at sea. This is because the seas are mainly a shared resource and therefore everybody needs to agree. Enforcement is also a challenge due to the wide expanses of the World’s oceans.

3)      Acidification of the Corals

Through climate change the seas are becoming more and more acidic as more and more CO2 is absorbed. This coupled with warming seas mean that growth is being impaired whilst the destruction is increasing.

Corals are unique ecosystems that are only possible at certain depths and temperatures. They are the rainforests of the oceans and do get more attention than most maritime ecosystems because of tourism but their destruction is occurring indirectly through big cars, flying and meat consumption.

4)      Whale & Shark Not Yet Safe

The whale is possibly the only species of the sea to awake the imagination of people. The International Whaling Commission voted in 1986 to ban commercial whaling. It has been relatively successful. However whaling continues and whales face fresh dangers through pollution, fishing, and shipping noise.

Sharks due to their image as deadly predators have not received the same attention, but their stocks are decreasing at an alarming rate. This is mainly due to being the by-catch from fishing and the wasteful practice of finning, where the fin is cut off for shark fin soup and the shark is thrown back overboard where it either starves, gets eaten alive by other fish or drowns as it cannot supply its gills with enough water.

These examples show the challenges facing humanity.  Humanity needs to look below the surface and start treating its oceans not as a massive endless cookie jar, but rather as a crucial and unique ecosystem that demands protection.

Image courtesy of www.uh.edu

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