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May 24, 2019

Anna Kihagi Explains Why We Should Do More to Preserve Our Oceans

Around the world, the oceans are in danger. The oceans provide more than half of the world’s available oxygen. They also absorb more carbon dioxide than any other part of the environment. They hold 97 percent of all the water on Earth. Since the ocean covers 70 percent of the world’s surface, it is a vital part of our climate. It moves heat from the tropical regions at the equator to the colder regions at the poles, providing the engine our climate relies on.

The ocean is responsible for $282 billion annually in the United States economy. Commercial fishing, shipping, and tours provide important economic benefits to their home ports and across the country. One-sixth of the protein people consume around the globe is provided by the ocean. Plastic pollution has already had a damaging effect on the ocean’s ecosystem.

Anna Kihagi, Owner and Operator at West 18 Properties from San Francisco, details the reasons why we need to take better care of our oceans and offers solutions going forward.

1. Oxygen for Life

The ocean provides over 50 percent of the available oxygen in the world. Some scientists estimate that it provides up to 85 percent. The lion’s share of this oxygen comes from phytoplankton, tiny ocean plants that photosynthesize and produce oxygen while absorbing carbon dioxide. Phytoplankton is also a vital part of the ocean’s ecosystem, providing a base for the food chain. Phytoplankton blooms provide food for animals as large as baleen whales.

2. Climate Regulation

The effects of the ocean on our planet’s climate are already being felt. Sea levels are beginning to rise. Global temperatures have risen a full 1-degree Fahrenheit over the past century. This may not seem like a large figure, but it has made an outsized impact on the world. The air is warmer, and the ice at the North and South Poles is melting. This climate change is leading to a shift in the types of animals which congregate at the poles, causing food chain disruption. Polar bears are especially vulnerable to this climate change.

3. Economic Impacts

The ocean provides a vital part of the world’s economy, claims Anne Kihagi. In the United States, much of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) is produced adjacent to the ocean. Three million jobs, or 1 in 45 of the total jobs in the United States, are dependent on the ocean and the Great Lakes. The ocean represented $352 billion of GDP in 2014, the latest year available.

72 percent of jobs in the ocean economy come from recreation and tourism employment, providing 31 percent of its GDP. Another 43 percent of the GDP of the ocean economy comes from offshore drilling.

When the oceans are negatively impacted by climate change, there are direct economic impacts. The movement patterns of ocean life are changed, leading to shifting areas where commercial fishing can take place. Pollution is another area of direct economic impact, causing a dip in tourism revenues.

4. Global Food Chain

The ocean provides a vital part of the food chain, both for animals and for humans. One-sixth of the protein consumed by humans comes from ocean products. Pollution negatively impacts the food supply, causing foods to be contaminated. For example, high levels of mercury in seafood can cause damage to children and pregnant women. More people are interested in the health benefits of fish and other seafood in their diets, so the proportion of people consuming ocean products will only rise.

Fish is not the only ocean product that impacts our economy. Ocean plants like seaweed are also important to the human food chain. Seaweed products are consumed directly and also form important parts of the commercial food industry. For example, the thickener carrageenan is used in a wide variety of foods, including ice cream.

5. Plastics Pollution

Plastics are beginning to have a disastrous impact on the world’s oceans. In the Pacific Ocean, the islands of plastic trash float and disrupt the ecosystem. When plastic garbage is not properly disposed of, it is sometimes eaten by marine life like whales, turtles, and birds. Stranded whales are often found with large amounts of plastics in their stomachs.

Protect the Oceans

Anna Kihagi urges all people to take steps to protect the oceans. Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that is produced at home and by vehicles is one of the steps that people can take to minimize their ecological impact. Using alternative forms of energy like wind and solar power can help to reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Controlling plastic pollution by reducing, reusing, and recycling waste can help to protect the oceans for generations to come.

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