Why our oceans matter? By Emilie Chartier

"Our oceans are the most precious thing we have; by jeopardising the future of our oceans we are also putting our own future in balance”

The numbers speak for themselves. The ocean covers 71% of the planet’s surface, represents 97% of its living space, holds 97% of the Earth’s water, and absorbs 30% of greenhouse gases and 90% of the excess of heat in the atmosphere generated by human activity. This complex and fragile ecosystem is the biggest life support system on this planet. The ocean sustains both marine and land biodiversity and is the very foundation of life. It produces more than 50% of the oxygen in the air we breathe (thanks to phytoplankton that behaves just like plants and through photosynthesis, absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen) and is the pump that allows us to have fresh water. The ocean is also the planet’s thermostat, constantly exchanging with the atmosphere, it stores and distributes large amount of heat around the globe via ocean currents, determines weather patterns and temperatures. This is why ocean and climate are inextricably linked and why the ocean, as a heat and carbon sink plays a fundamental role in mitigating climate change.

We also rely on the ocean for food (fish is the primary source of protein for over a billion people), to carry 80% of our trade, to absorb our wastes, as a source of energy, and as part of our culture and enjoyment and so much more. In other words, no matter where you are on this planet, the ocean affects your life. Not to mention that about half of the world’s population lives in coastal zones and that some countries such as the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are fully dependent upon the ocean for their livelihoods, if not their survival.


For centuries, we thought that nothing we do could impact the ocean but we were wrong. We have pushed species to the brink and impacted on every ocean habitat. Overexploitation of marine resources, loss of marine biodiversity, destruction of marine coastal habitats, uncontrolled and damaging pressure of marine and coastal urbanisation, tourism, marine pollution and climate change are weakening the world’s ocean. Almost every corner of the ocean has been degraded by the destructive footprint of human activity.

“Less than 5% of the ocean remains protected”

Life as we know it on Earth depends on a healthy ocean. Yet, the ocean, the most shared and exploited part of the world, is the least explored, understood and protected. We cannot protect the planet, ourselves, and all the species with whom we share it without protecting the ocean. So, what are we waiting for?

An article by Emilie Chartier.


Ocean and Climate Platform http://ocean-climate.org
“Ocean of Life”, Callum Roberts, Penguin Books Ltd, England, 2013, 390 p

To find out more about ocean and marine conservation, visit The Conservation Project International today at www.tcproject.co.uk.