Considering that oceans and seas cover more than two thirds of the Earth, it’s no surprise our home is nicknamed the blue planet. As such, they form the world’s largest ecosystem. In contrast, people only inhabit a very small portion of the planet. Thanks to their temperature, chemistry, currents and life, the world’s oceans are engines for global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Absorbing about a quarter of the CO₂ we produce, oceans are responsible for providing and regulating rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of the food we eat and even the oxygen in the air we breathe. When the marine ecosystem is disrupted, we all feel the effects. Without the oceans, life on land is also doomed.
Throughout history, our seas and oceans have served as important channels for trade and transportation. At present, however, pollution is increasingly contaminating the world’s waterways. Additionally, a decades-long surge in CO₂ emissions has thrown the marine ecosystem out of balance. The result is climate change and ocean acidification, which poses a threat to marine life. Overfishing and pollution are also destroying this unique habitat. Ocean acidification not only adversely affects biodiversity but also has dire consequences for small-scale fisheries.
In line with its sustainability and cooperation priorities, Germany targets reductions in ocean nutrient pollution and aimed for sustainable management of all commercially exploited fish stocks in the North and Baltic Seas by 2020. The European Union – and consequently Germany – aims to minimize the negative impacts of fisheries. What’s more, Germany is not only committed to marine protection on its own shores but also supports partner countries around the globe in their efforts to implement lasting ocean conservation practices. For example, the German government is investing around EUR 50 million in waste collection and recycling technologies by 2023. Studies show that just ten rivers around the world are responsible for transporting 90 percent of the plastic waste that ends up in the oceans.
Marine protected areas must be effectively managed and adequately resourced. To that end, regulations curtailing overfishing, marine pollution and ocean acidification must be put in place. Careful management of this important global resource is an essential part of a sustainable future.
Scientists have also proven that positive changes in water quality are in fact attainable. Of 220 coastal regions, nearly half have improved their coastal water quality since 2012. In addition, the extent of marine protected areas has doubled since 2010. So, the world has taken some steps to improve the state of the oceans.