During 2018, human impacts and global climate change affected the world’s oceans. What is more, the severity of the plastics problem became more clear, with plastics being found 36,000 feet below sea level. However, despite the alarming situation in our oceans, there are reasons to feel optimistic that this will change.
More than 9 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, with 7 billion tons ending as waste, in the form of microplastics. They originate mostly from packages and drink bottles and break up into tiny pieces in the environment. According to estimations, if this continues the world will end up with 13 billion tons of microplastics by 2050.
Moreover, during the last year we saw record-breaking warming events taking place around the world.
Nevertheless, there are reasons to be optimistic, that the oceans’ health will improve in 2019. Priya Shukla from Forbes cites five key reasons:
1. New ocean habitats to be found
US scientists discovered a massive deep-sea coral reef near the South Carolina coast, as well as almost 1,000 previously unknown methane seeps along the Pacific Northwest coast. Moreover, scientists learned about hydrothermal vents, which are accommodating a variety of life almost 12,500 feet below sea level in the Gulf of California’s Pescadero Basin.
2. More ocean is protected
The UK called for 30% of the oceans to be protected within the next ten years, with many other nations taking measures towards protecting their coastlines.
In fact, Argentina set out two new marine parks, with the Seychelles establishing two marine parks. In addition, New Caledonia announced four new marine protected areas and South Africa established 20 new marine protected areas along its coasts.
3. New species to be discovered
Biologists named 17 new sea slug species living in tropical and temperate coastal zones. Furthermore, about 25,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, researchers found three new species of snailfish, Ms. Shukla informs. A new species of deep sea coral has also been found in an underwater mountain range near Tasmania, while 100 new species may have been near Bermuda.
4. Coral reefs are resilient
A study suggested that corals that survived the intense marine heatwave in 2016 were able to sustain more warming events in 2017. This shows that surviving a warming event may make corals more resistant to similar incidents in the future.
5. Fisheries Are recovering
Many West Coast groundfish species are recovering fast. These fisheries were virtually closed for twenty years after almost collapsing. From January 1, 2019, the National Marine Fisheries Service wants to double catch limits for groundfish and other species. This could add $60 million in fishing income into Pacific coast fishing communities.