Why does the ocean matter? It’s not a rhetorical question.
Most of us have a vague sense that the seas should be protected. We have likely seen news of oil spills and documentaries about dolphin killings and feel generally uneasy about the idea of over-exploiting the ocean. But the problem with such vague motives is that they lead to weak action.
If we want our work to be impactful, our motives must be clear. Hence the question: Why does the ocean matter? Well, for one, it’s a huge economy.
How big? According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the global ocean economy is valued at $1.5 trillion a year and that number is expected to double by 2030. So here’s a brief primer on the very tangible economic services that our seas bring us:
Look around yourself. Regardless of where you are - be it a coffee shop or your living room - chances are you are surrounded by objects that travelled by sea. That’s because a whooping 80% of global trade by volume is transported by ship.
Plenty of Food
Fishing accounts for 350 million jobs worldwide. That said, aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector and already provides about 50% of the fish humans eat. Energy and Minerals
By 2025, 34% of oil production will come from offshore drilling. The sea bottom is also rich in other lesser known but crucial mineral resources like gravel, sand, zinc, cobalt and cooper. Sustainable forms of energy are also on the rise, from offshore wind to wave energy and algae-made biofuels.
Forty percent of the world's population lives within 100 kilometers of the coast so it’s no surprise that most of us like to vacation on the beach. Coastal maritime tourism is the largest source of wealth for many countries like the Maldives, Croatia or Thailand. And the practice of water sports like surfing, sailing or scuba diving provides millions of jobs worldwide through courses, competitions and apparel manufacturing.
There are also a myriad of emerging industries at sea, like biotechnology, bioinformatics, deep sea robotics and science communication. And many believe we have only just begun to tap into the wealth of medical solutions and industrial enzymes that the ocean has in store for us.
To be sure, there are many reasons to care for the sea beyond its economic utility. But starting there matters because it’s through all these activities that most of us interact with the sea. And environmental challenges like climate change or plastic pollution affect more than a few marine species. They threaten all the foods, jobs and services that a healthy ocean provides and that we so often take for granted. _____ Did you find this article interesting? Come find us on social media, share this article with a friend and, if you want to stay up to date with the latest ocean trends, subscribe to our brilliant weekly newsletter, “the Ocean Brief.”