The United Nations established World Oceans Day in 2009 in order to drive global awareness of the issue. It’s now marked every year on June 8.
With 1.3 billion cubic kilometers of water, the ocean makes up more than 90% of the Earth’s living space.
The planet’s single largest ecosystem also regulates the air and climate.
“The ocean is really, really important to us because it provides us with services, ecosystem services. Many people eat fish so it’s important for us to conserve our oceans.
“It’s also important because people use the ocean for recreation so we have to protect our biodiversity,” said Camilla Floros, scientist at the Oceanographic Research Institute.
Experts admit the ocean largely remains a mystery to those who study it.
But a new report by the Global Ocean Commission is hoping to change that.
The report indicates that high seas ecosystems account for nearly half of the biological productivity of the global ocean.
An estimated half a billion tons of carbon are captured and stored annually by life in the high seas.
The value of this carbon storage is estimated to be between US $74 billion and $222 billion annually.
Researchers from Canada and England recommend closing the high seas to fishing to increase its monetary value and sustainability.
But what would that mean for a coastal country like South Africa, with around 140,000 people reliant on fisheries for their livelihood?
“There’s a lot of subsistence fishing in northern KwaZulu-Natal and there’s certainly in the Western Cape a lot of smaller commercial fisheries that take place. And these individuals who know no other income, this is their life,” said Stuart Laing, also a scientist at the Oceanographic Research Institute.
Laing is impressed by the Global Oceans Commission’s report, but believes South Africa has bigger fish to fry.
“Illegal fishing in South African waters is a hard one to manage. In 2009, illegal fishing accounted for R6 billions of cash, so we have enough trouble governing the illegal fishing that happens in our waters.”
South Africa has 21 marine protected areas on its….. Continue Reading