Oceans all over the world represent an almost infinite reservoir of water — they have limitless potential in terms of offering a source of food and income through fishing, aquaculture, shipping and export.
Despite the incredible range of functions that oceans serve, they are constantly being threatened on a daily basis. This occurs through processes such as eutrophication which occur as a result of excessive fertilizer use.
In eutrophication, an algal bloom on water surfaces prevents adequate oxygen reaching marine life, consequently resulting in the death of aquatic organisms. Ocean water is also being contaminated on a daily basis by pollutants released into the water by sewage plants, factories and farms.
In developing countries, oceans can offer a source of employment not only for fishermen but also for professional boatmen and retailers who rely on sales of aquatic produce. It is estimated that approximately 3 billion people globally depend on oceans for their nutritional needs, including vital protein and minerals.
Marasmus and Kwashiorkor are two important protein deficiency conditions that prevail in developing countries. Inadequate protein intake in these conditions may be boosted by the protein sources harvested from oceans. Globally, 740 million people suffer from iodine deficiency, resulting in clinical implications such as goiter and brain damage. Iodine deficiencies may be corrected by iodine-fortified salt, which can be obtained by chemical crystallization and purification of ocean water.
Coastal regions have the added benefit of income acquired through tourism. It is also estimated that 90 percent of fishers come from developing countries alone, and hence oceans represent vast hubs of employment that require urgent conservation.
Preservation of ocean water may help in the reduction of hunger, especially in developing countries, which are greatly contingent upon this natural resource. Humanitarian organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, are increasing their collaboration with other countries to support strategies that ensure a sustainable supply of seafood, conservation of aquatic ecosystems and preservation of highly targeted areas such as coral reefs.
Oceans also have therapeutic value, as many medicines that can be used to treat a disease can be acquired from ocean water. These medicines include antibiotics, that can be used to supplement cure of bacterial infection in developing countries. Oceans also contain substances that can act as anti-inflammatory therapies to treat inflammatory pathologies such as asthma.
In recognition of the integral importance of oceans to stability and balance in the ecosystem, ocean conservation is currently one of the Sustainable Development Goals pursued by the United Nations. As ocean water constitutes approximately 97 percent of all water present on Earth, it is our responsibility to pay heed to judicious preservation of ocean water.
– Tanvi Ambulkar