We have always enjoyed the blessing of our oceans. Most of us would love traveling to see our amazing beaches and appreciate all the living creatures in it for its pristine beauty.
The Beauty Of Our Oceans
We are blessed with a planet that is very rich in terms of marine biodiversity. Our oceans are home to more than 20,000 species of fish which come in all shapes and sizes; a multitude of cephalopods, crustaceans, and shellfish; thousands of marine mammals, sea turtles, sharks, rays, and seabirds; and a million more corals and other invertebrates. In fact, despite the extensive research that the human race has already put into exploring our vast ocean, we haven’t got to the bottom of its entirety yet. So probably, there are still millions of other undiscovered creatures teeming in our oceans.
However, the precious value of our oceans does not stop in the fact that it houses a rich myriad of creatures—the oceans have a direct connection to us as well. Our waters cover 70% of our planet, allowing it to produce one-third of the oxygen that we humans breathe day in and day out. The seas not only keep alive the sea creatures for our own consumption but also provide water to our forests and other land animals which also give us our food. More so, it keeps our planet from heating up and drying down.
But the last time we checked, we seem to have forgotten these altogether.
“Our natural environment makes important contributions to our mental health and well-being. Efforts aimed at preventing mental illness and promoting psychological health would be wise to align themselves with environmental conservation initiatives,” Justin Thomas, PhD in Experimental Psychology, said.
The Ruin We’ve Caused
Plastic consumption worldwide has exponentially increased over the years, and much of the plastics we have already used end up in our oceans, with around eight million tons of plastic entering our seas every single year. Experts project that if this trend continues, we will be welcomed with a future wherein we have more plastics than fish in our oceans. There will also be major effects on the mental health of those directly affected by our improper practices. Sabine Pahl, PhD, states that “given the increasing litter on our coasts and in our seas, the psychological effects can be expected to get worse.”
Because of the pollution we’ve caused to the oceans, we have inappropriately altered the external marine environment. Our oceans have become a plastic soup, filled with all sorts of waste from non-biodegradable plastic. Instead of fish feeding around corals, we have seen our seabeds ravaged by plastic waste—slowly turning our organic marine biodiversity into a massive, lifeless landfill. More specifically, we have altered the “insides” of our aquatic creatures through our plastic consumption.
In March 2018, a young turtle was found dead at the coast of Argentina, and scientists found out that digestive blockage and internal lacerations from plastic debris caused its slow death to come about. Sea turtles apparently mistake these slabs of plastic as jellyfish or other sea creatures for food. Around 74 foreign objects were found in its stomach, including bits and pieces of latex balloons and hard plastic, toys, and toothbrushes.
Shortly in May of this year also, a dead harp seal, which was only around eight months old, was found dead in Scotland due to a small square of plastic film wrapped around its stomach. It’s astonishing how a small piece of plastic, two inches at that, can kill such a precious aquatic creature. Seals are intelligent animals which easily distinguish between prey and non-prey. This incident raises the red flag all the more because even intelligent marine creatures fall victim to human plastic consumption.
Most recently, just in November, a 31-foot-long sperm whale was found dead on the beach of southern Indonesia. After further study, scientists found out that its stomach was filled with six kilograms of plastic trash. Hundreds of plastic items and even two flip-flops were running into its digestive system before it died. Earlier this year, another sperm whale also died in Spain for plastic trash.
“Communities sharing sustainability goals are essential for the change we need,” Kenneth Worthy Ph.D. said. It’s high time that we spread awareness on the danger that we are causing—consciously or not—on the sustainability of our oceans, lest we allow our children and the children of our children to face a future lacking in the gift and benefits that only our waters can provide.