Updated: Jul 3
Nobody can deny the beauty of the ocean: from the colorful line of coral reef that is home to colorful schools of fish, the dark deep sea floor that is home to soft otherwordly fishes, and the vast body of water that is home of long living sea turtles, whales, and other marine creatures. You name it.
But if we truly admire the beauty of the ocean, then why are we still perpetuating these problems? Why are we still not doing enough to deal with the problems when the ocean has given so much for us? Is this the case of taking the ocean for granted?
Or perhaps this is the case best described by the infamous Indonesian proverb “tak kenal maka tak sayang”, which can be roughly translated to “you do not know, thus you do not love”. Case in point: Did you know that 80% of the ocean seafloor remains unmapped to this day?
If that is the case then let us get to know a bit more about the ocean– its lesser-known facts, mysteries, and its utmost importance to be protected from damages as mentioned above.
The Mysteries of the Ocean
Monsters in the ocean (?)
In the past, the ocean was something mysterious (it kind of still is, nowadays). It is understandable as it is a cold dark place with its constantly moving current. It grows people's curiosity about what kind of animals could be living in this kind of place. We can see from the old Renaissance map that shows various unique creatures drawn in the middle of the ocean. Some are scary, like giant octopuses, and others look like humans, such as mermaids (Waters, 2013). This unique drawing was something to feed the hunger of the upper-class people about the outside world without having to explore themselves. It is also a story to tell other sailors about what mysterious creatures they could find in the ocean. At the same time, these unique drawings show how little we know about the ocean in the past.
As technology advanced, we started to uncover the mysteries of the ocean and understood more about these otherworldly creatures drawn on the Renaissance-era map. We knew that the mix between a wolf and a bird monster with tusks or large teeth and waterspouts that like to attack ships is indeed a whale. However, as we gain more knowledge about the ocean and technology that could even bring us to space, the mystery of the ocean still remains a major mystery to this day.
We know more about space than the ocean
(even though the space is vastly bigger)
We do not know for sure how big our space is, but we all know that space is vast and the volume of the ocean is nothing compared to space. But yet, we know and have explored more of space than the ocean.
For comparison, we have sent 12 men to the moon since 1969, but only three people have reached the deepest part of the ocean in Marianas Trench (Kershner, 2021). If we take that into account, more than 80% of the ocean remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored as researchers relied heavily on sonar technology to map the seafloor, we have mapped only less than 10% of the global ocean (NOAA, 2023).
Protecting the Ocean is a Must
Our Dependence on the Ocean
The ocean occupies 70% of the Earth’s surface, transferring heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our planet's climate and weather pattern. This vast area of water is also the place where half of the Earth’s oxygen is produced with the help of the oceanic plankton through photosynthesis (NOAA, 2023).
Besides being the largest producer of the Earth’s oxygen, the ocean also feeds us. According to Falkenberg et al. (2020), around 149 million children under five are heavily dependent on seafood as a protein source. More than just seafood, many of the food products found in our grocery store contain ingredients from the ocean. For example, peanut butter contains carrageenan (a compound extracted from the species of red algae) which makes peanut butter more spreadable (NOAA, 2023).
Another reason why our lives heavily depend on the ocean is more than 80% of our goods are shipped through the ocean. That is around 11 billion tons per year (UNCTAD, 2022). That includes the smartphones and laptops we use to read this article, cars, commodities, and raw materials that we use in our everyday life.
Ocean Issues, Our Issues
As we extracted resources and utilize the ocean to transport our goods, it seems that we have reached a point where we have overexploited and damaged our ocean. Let’s face it, our ocean has become noisier, disturbing the whales’ echolocation ability; more acidic, damaging our corals and hindering many marine lifecycles; more polluted by plastic and oil; and more threatening to the coastal population due to rising sea levels from climate change. ( National Geographic, n.d.).
It is estimated that our activities have caused 90% of big fish populations to be depleted, and 50% of coral reefs to be destroyed. Not to mention the estimation that around 40 million people employed in ocean-based industries by 2030 has their job threatened by the damaged ocean (United Nations, n.d.). If we continue on this path, the marine species will face extinction and the ocean ecosystem will be too polluted for life, impacted the environment and also our livelihood.
Behind World Ocean Day and Ocean Month
These raising concerns about the worsening of the ocean is the reason why Ocean Month was initiated. June is World Ocean Month with the initiation of Ocean Day happening on every June 8 since 1992 following the United Nations Conferences on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro (United Nations, n.d.).
The idea of why we celebrated ocean month is to inform everyone about the impact of our actions on the ocean that eventually lead to more sustainable management of the world's oceans. But as time goes on, it seems that our action is not enough to protect our ocean. Aligned with this year's world ocean day theme, Tides are Changing, it is our time together to put our ocean first. Because protecting the environment, including the ocean, require everyone's actions from governments, businesses, to individuals.
How to Protect the Ocean?
As an individual, what are ways to protect the ocean? It can be as easy as refusing to use plastic bottles and plastic bags, conserving water, fishing responsibly, and sharing awareness about the ocean on social media. You can share your knowledge about the ocean that could help people around understand the threat oceans face, getting them to know more about the ocean, and thus loving the ocean more.
On the other hand, businesses can help protect the ocean by analyzing their carbon emission and taking action to reduce it. Action that can be taken is by investing in nature. For example, some funds can be used to invest in nature like fund mangrove rehabilitation as well as coral rehabilitation efforts. This will result in compounding effect which will help with the issues of climate change and thus reversing the effects of ocean acidification.
There are endless ways to protect and revert back the damages we have done to the ocean. What’s important here is that we continue to cultivate love by cultivating knowledge. Remember, “tak kenal maka tak sayang”. Keep learning, keep loving. Let’s #Thrive4Nature!
Writer: Fendy Wiedardi Limtara
Editor: Howen Jayawi
Falkenberg, L. J., Bellerby, R. G. J., Connell, S. D., Fleming, L. E., Maycock, B., Russell, B. D., Sullivan, F. J., & Dupont, S. (2020). Ocean Acidification and Human Health. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(12), 4563. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17124563
Kershner, K. (2021, April 27). Do We Really Know More About Space Than the Deep Ocean?. Retrieved June 18, 2023, from https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/oceanography/deep-ocean-exploration.htm
National Geographic. (n.d.). Ocean Threats. Retrieved June 29, 2023, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/ocean-threats#:~:text=Global%20warming%20is%20causing%20sea,other%20runoff%20into%20the%20oceans
National Geographic. (n.d.). Plastic Bag Found at the Bottom of World’s Deepest Ocean Trench. Retrieved July 2, 2023, from https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/plastic-bag-found-bottom-worlds-deepest-ocean-trench/
NOAA. (2023, January 20). How Much of the Ocean Have We Explored?. Retrieved June 18, 2023, from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/exploration.html
NOAA. (2023, January 20). What Does Peanut Butter Have to Do With the Ocean?. Retrieved June 18, 2023, from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/peanutbutter.html
NOAA. (2023, February 1). How Much Oxygen Comes From the Ocean?. Retrieved June 18, 2023, from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/ocean-oxygen.html
UNCTAD. (2022, November 29). Review of Maritime Transport 2022. https://unctad.org/publication/review-maritime-transport-2022
United Nations. (n.d.). What is World Oceans Day? United Nations World Oceans Day. Retrieved June 29, 2023, from https://unworldoceansday.org/about/
United Nations. (n.d.). Planet Ocean: Tides are Changing. Retrieved June 29, 2023, from https://www.un.org/en/observances/oceans-day?gclid=Cj0KCQjw1_SkBhDwARIsANbGpFsZveHOiAMVjqAnl-2KKZwpVV53PDI52Xsx8XRjw_EZSGrQ7firtQ4aAjofEALw_wcB
Waters, H. (2013, October 15). The Enchanting Sea Monsters on Medieval Maps. Retrieved June 25, 2023, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-enchanting-sea-monsters-on-medieval-maps-1805646/