Amidst the global warming crisis, it is hard to be optimistic that the extensive damage done to the world’s oceans through human pollution can ever be reversed. However, recent scientific studies suggest there is hope; our oceans can be restored by as soon as 2050, if the right measures are taken. Oceans are home to over two million species yet have been neglected for decades – factories dump their chemicals into them, while many individuals still see no problem with their plastic bags and bottles ending up in the water and consumed by ocean wildlife. And few of us can forget the disaster that was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the largest in the petroleum industry’s history, totaling a staggering 4.9 million barrels spilled and killing countless animals.
In the ten years since, global warming has reached alarming levels – water levels are rising worldwide, and ocean water is becoming more acidic, leading to destruction of habitats like coral reefs. Yet many of the oceans’ species, such as humpback whales and green turtles, have proven to be surprisingly resilient to all this change, despite being hunted excessively. Sustainable fishing and commercial whaling bans are vital for these animals’ numbers to increase again, yet these efforts must also be adopted in parts of the world that were previously seen as low risk for global warming.
The financial costs of doing so will be high, but the reward of clean and thriving oceans will be invaluable. The effects of tourism must also not be ignored – holiday cruises are still popular in many countries, as is snorkeling among coral reefs, pieces of which are broken off by tourists and kept as souvenirs. The canals in Venice now have clear water in them for the first time in years – this is a direct side-effect of reduced pollution caused by the forced pause from the coronavirus, and is evidence of how much our ecosystems can improve in a short time, if given the chance to. Plastic waste is likely the biggest threat facing oceans, and governments must have stricter penalties in place for polluting and not segregating household waste from recyclable products. Some politicians don’t see ocean conservation as a priority, and arguably there are more important and pressing issues for world leaders to deal with, but this environmental crisis needs to be addressed at some point – and the sooner this happens, the more chance there is for oceans and marine life to be restored.
The combined efforts of the wealthiest countries on Earth shouldn’t be underestimated when dealing with any environmental problem. The UK is among the many countries that have pledged to increase protection efforts to 30% of all oceans by 2030, which is an ambitious but commendable initiative. Yet more must be done for species conservation, habitat preservation and mitigating the effects of global warming, including drastically reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Change is possible and necessary, and when united, the people and nations of the world are stronger together.