Throughout 2018 our marine biologists here at Love The Oceans will be doing blog posts on topics of Named Days throughout the year. To keep up to date, follow this blog, also found under the ‘News’ tab on our website. Without further ado, in celebration of Mother Ocean Day 2018, I introduce our tenth blog in this marine series:
Mother Ocean: Beautiful and Essential for Mankind
On March 12, the day before Mother’s Day, we celebrate Mother Ocean Day. Just like Mother Nature, Mother Ocean is vital for human survival and it’s not only because of the fish we eat. Therefore, in honour of our beloved ocean, this blog will look at ocean ecosystem services and scuba diving – an amazing way to discover and appreciate the ocean’s beauty.
The oceans, and coastal marine ecosystems in particular, are crucial for human survival and many livelihoods around the globe depend on the ocean. In this blog we’re going to talk about four marine ecosystem services that humans gain from the ocean: fisheries, coastal protection, carbon sink and recreation and tourism.
Fisheries is the best-known ocean service, providing a critical part of the human diet worldwide, with 17% of all animal protein consumed globally coming from fish. Unfortunately, over 80% of the world’s harvested fish stocks are fully or overexploited due to the high global demand. Virtually every commercially targeted fish depends at some point in its life on various coastal habitats like coral reefs or mangrove forests, which are under threat due to anthropogenic impacts like coastal development and climate change. It is clear that if we want to benefit from this service in the long run, we’ll have to protect coastal habitats and reduce fishing pressure, allowing the stocks to recover.
Coastal areas are not only important serving as fish habitats, they also protect human coastal settlements from waves, storm surges and shoreline elevation. Coastal wetlands, mangroves, sea grass beds and coral reefs are highly valuable because they can keep up with the rising sea levels that threaten our coastlines and function as a barrier for waves and storm surges. Investing in protection of these habitats should be more of a priority than building coastal structures, since these marine ecosystems are natural and require little (if any) maintenance costs.
Many marine ecosystems function as a carbon sink. Due to complex processes, habitats like salt marches, mangrove forests and seagrass beds accumulate and store large amounts of carbon, removing it from the carbon cycle for thousands of years. This buffer is essential since our C02 emissions influence climate change. Yet, like the fate of many marine services, humans often offset the benefits for their own good. Coastal development and habitat destruction leads to premature release of this stored carbon, accelerating global warming.
Marine recreation and tourism is a well-appreciated ecosystem service, perhaps because of how lucrative it can be. Tourism is a huge business, worth over 9% of global GDP, and marine tourism is popular, with tourists attracted to calm waters, beautiful beaches and in-water activities. Many of these recreational activities depend on healthy oceans, so if humans don’t start protecting them soon, Mother Ocean could become exhausted and human benefits will diminish.
Love The Oceans works very hard to study and protect a biodiverse area in Guinjata Bay, Mozambique. Our motto ‘Conservation through research, education and diving’, says it all and we’re always striving for the best environmental practises and protection of the marine world. An important aspect of our work is scuba diving, which is a wonderful way to explore and appreciate the ocean’s beauty. If you haven’t already, give it a try! Your life will not be the same after the ocean casts its spell on you.
Recreational diving as we know it today is a fairly new activity that started in the 1930s with the rising interest in underwater hunting. Adventurers explored the unknown underwater world with home-made snorkels and spears to hunt fish. The pioneer of this era was Guy Gilpatric who wrote ‘The Compleat Goggler’, one of the first sports diver manuals. One of the people Gilpatric introduced to the sport was Jacques Cousteau, the father of today’s recreational diving and an inspirational marine conservationist. Cousteau actually began diving as a hunter but was quickly drawn to the mysteries of the big blue. Given the practical time and depth limits of breath-hold diving, Cousteau realised there was a need for an air supply, not necessarily to go deeper, but to at least stay longer in what he called ‘a new world’. He teamed up with compressed air engineer Emile Gagnan in 1942 and together they developed the Aqua-Lung – the first open-circuit scuba regulator that delivers air at the surrounding water pressure only when the diver inhales. Through their invention the focus of recreational diving shifted from hunting to underwater movies and photography, showing the world the beauty of life beneath the surface.
At that time, diving was for a select group of adventurous individuals, but in the early 1950s the industry grew with gear manufacturers making the basic gear available for everyone. In the years after, the wetsuit and Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) were invented and improved. Eventually in the early 1980s, the recreational diving industry boomed with the invention of the first dive computer, jacket-style BCDs as well as training innovations and multiple organisations such as PADI, SSI, CMAS and NAUI providing dive education, training and a wide range of certifications. Until today, technologic advancements, the increased popularity of SCUBA diving and worldwide availability of training centres and dive spots make this industry a very valuable part of marine tourism.