AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SAVE THEM
5 March 2019 - For the first time, the UN’s World Wildlife Day is highlighting threats to marine life. The theme of World Wildlife Day 2019, which takes place on March 3, is 'Life below water: for people and planet'. The title is a nod to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life below water, which focuses on protecting marine species.
“Oceans regulate our climate, produce half the oxygen we breathe, provide nourishment for [more than] 3 billion people, and absorb 30 percent of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and fully 90 percent of the heat from climate change,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UN Assistant Secretary-General, in November when the theme was announced.
UN World Wildlife Day was established in 2013, with the first event taking place in 2015. Its mission is to “celebrate and raise awareness of the world's wild fauna and flora.” Activities, film screenings and art contests are taking place across the world to draw attention to this year’s theme, including an event at UN Headquarters in New York.
Oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and make up more than 99 percent of the planet’s livable habitat, but scientists say they’re in serious trouble. The first systematic analysis of marine wilderness, published in the journal Current Biology in 2018, found that the ocean has been extensively altered due to human activity, with only 13 percent left undisturbed.
The news followed the revelation that over half the world’s oceans are being industrially fished. A 2018 study, published in the journal Science, found that commercial fishing covered a bigger area than global agriculture.
This massive disruption to ocean ecosystems can be caused by such diverse threats as overfishing, agricultural chemical offspill and global warming driving up sea temperatures. While threats to rainforests and other land environments have long been known, public awareness about the precarious state of the ocean are a more recent revelation, thanks in part to cultural phenomena like the BBC’s Blue Planet series.
From coral bleaching to acidification, Newsweek discusses 15 of the biggest threats facing the oceans today—as well as what we can do about them.