Celebrating our seas: World Oceans Day 2020

Sean Altern – Consultant: Biodiversity Conservation Services

Once of many species fan worms found along our shores (Altern, 2014)

It was marvellous, a feast for the eyes, this complication of coloured tints, a perfect kaleidoscope of green, yellow, orange, violet, indigo, and blue; in one word, the whole palette of an enthusiastic colourist!”

– Jules Verne, 20000 Leagues under the Sea.

One of the last true and most important of wildernesses are the world’s oceans. Over 70% of our oxygen comes from the ocean of which only 5% has been properly explored. Humans have been to the moon but not yet the deepest parts of our own planet. As far as we know…

The sea holds a special place for many and is as life giving and life sustaining as the very land upon which we live. A trip to the Two Oceans aquarium or a short dive along South Africa’s exquisite coastline offers just a glimpse of the wonder and beauty that can be found below.

As curious about us as we are them (Altern, 2014).

Like much of our environment the ocean is exploited and stressed with species declining, fisheries collapsing and pollution forming man made islands of waste. Many shipping ports have become ‘dead zones’, areas so polluted that the only species able to survive are jellyfish which rapidly kill off all other living organisms. Ominously, frequent jellyfish blooms are a seen as a natural sign of a degraded ecosystem seemingly thriving in the mess. Invasive species such as Mediterranean mussels out crowd natural creatures such as limpets and anemones along our rocky coasts whilst sewerage pumped into our seas leads to ill health for all encountering it.

Around the globe there is an estimated 220 million recreational fishers accounting about 1% of the total global marine fisheries catch, which is much higher than what many scientists and managers used to believe. It is not just commercial fisheries causing decline, it is all of us.

As Capt. Jack Sparrow once said, “The World’s still the same there’s just less in it.”

The beautiful and delicate nudibranch which can often be found in tidal pools (Altern, 2013).

The oceans are an integral part of life on this planet and we have the opportunities to both enjoy them along with the responsibility to protect them.

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