Save the oceans

Several human activities aggravate threats to ocean ecologies

Save the oceans


he oceans have it all: from microscopic life to the largest animal that has ever lived on the earth, from the colourless to the shining, from the frozen to the boiling and from the sunlit to the mysterious dark of the deepest parts of the planet. They help us breathe, regulate the climate, provide food and sustain millions of jobs.

The oceans produce over half of the world’s oxygen and absorb 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. They regulate the climate. Oceans cover 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and keep our planet liveable. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), over 40 percent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometres of the coast. Good management of the ocean resources is thus crucial to ensuring global food security.

In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly decided that, starting from 2009, June 8 would be designated by the United Nations as World Oceans Day, an opportunity to celebrate the oceans and our connection to the sea. This is a day to cultivate an appeal for the people, raise awareness about its importance to humanity and learn about what needs to be done to protect it. The purpose of the day is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean and mobilise population for sustainable management of the world’s oceans.

Oceans are one of the major sources of fish and other sea-foods. Fisheries and aquaculture currently employ 56 million people, directly. Many more are employed in follow-up activities, such as handling, processing and distribution. Altogether, fishing and fish farming support the livelihoods and families of some 660 to 880 million people – that is 12 percent of the world’s population.

Oceans host 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity, and are the largest ecosystem on Earth. They provide vital renewable energy and devices are being developed to generate electricity from waves and tides, as well as offshore wind farms. Over 90 percent of the additional heat caused by global warming is stored in the oceans. Without this service, and the heating and cooling effects of ocean currents, world temperatures would be too unstable to support life.

As the oceans are heated by the sun’s rays, water from its surface evaporates. It condenses later to form clouds as part of the water cycle. This is how we get our rain and therefore, our drinking water. It also contributes to wind, thunderstorms and hurricanes and helps produce monsoon rains that millions of people in South Asia rely on.

The UN Ocean Conference, titled Save Our Ocean-Protect Our Future, from June 27 to July 1 at Lisbon, Portugal, co-hosted by Kenya and Portugal, comes at a critical time as the world is seeking to address many deep-rooted societal problems laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, many human activities are putting ocean ecologies under threat. Overfishing is reducing fish populations, threatening the supply of nutritious food and changing marine food nets. Approximately 80 percent of the pollution in the oceans comes from land. Coastal zones are especially vulnerable to pollutants.

Plastics are particularly problematic with enormous floating rubbish patches forming in the oceans. On average, 8 tonnes of plastic are dumped into the oceans each year. Chemical pollution in the oceans can include sewage, pesticides, fertilisers, industrial chemicals, oil, etc. All of these chemicals contaminate the water and kill marine life. Climate change and its related impacts, such as ocean acidification, are also affecting the survival of some marine species.

Too many fish caught at one time makes it almost impossible for the fish to reproduce. The fishes are being caught at a faster rate than they can reproduce. As a result of this fishing, hunting and pollution, many fish and other marine life are endangered. The oceans are more important than most people realise. We need to start taking care of the ocean and the fish before it’s too late.

Pakistan is located at the shore connected to the Indian Ocean by the coastline of the North Eastern Arabian Sea. Two of its provinces, Balochistan (800 kilometres) and Sindh (250 kilometres) have a coastline connecting India and Iran.

The environmental issues associated with the coastal areas of Pakistan are huge. The biggest problem is anthropogenic activities that harm the coastal ecosystem by causing marine pollution. Untreated waste from many industries is finding its way to the water bodies. Oil shipping carries a perennial risk of leaks that are a major threat to marine life.

Fishery and fishing industry play a significant part in the national economy of Pakistan. These provide employment to about 300,000 fishermen directly. In addition, another 400,000 people are employed in supplementary industries. Karachi Fish Harbour handles about 90 percent of fish and seafood catch in Pakistan and 95 percent of fish and seafood exports from Pakistan.

Gwadar Port is the largest deep sea port in the world. It conveniently connects three regions: Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.

Besides promotion of tourism, the port is attracting foreign investment. It has the potential to boost Pakistan’s economy by 60 percent. Gwadar Port holds strategic significance due to its prime location and massive recent investment.

The UN Ocean Conference, titled Save Our Ocean-Protect Our Future, from June 27 to July 1 at Lisbon, Portugal, co-hosted by Kenya and Portugal, comes at a critical time as the world is seeking to address many deep-rooted societal problems laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic. These will require major structural transformations. The conference will seek to drive much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.

The writer is a playwright and freelance journalist. He can be reached at and his blogging site:

Save the oceans