By Adeena Jamal Ahmad:
Why Marine Biodiversity? Well, marine biodiversity has become one of the most engaging concerns over the last century. Owing to increasing pressure on the environment by humans combined with the realization that our activities can seriously threaten the future sustainability of marine species and ecosystem, marine ecosystem needs to be preserved. However the entire marine ecosystem is camouflaged by the biodiversity in general. Little has been done over the past few decades to keep a check on the losses within the biodiversity. The need to conserve fisheries and the great whales has long attracted attention, but except for a few so-called ‘charismatic mega fauna’ such as marine mammals and sea turtles, conservation of species that are not commercially attractive has garnered little support.
There are two basic explanations for this knowledge gap. Firstly, the oceans are difficult for humans to explore. Because of this reason, the oceans have been suffering extensively and have not received apt attention from all spheres of research and scientific approach. Many people have a myopic view of the biosphere, completely discarding the marine ecosystem which is overpowered by the flora and fauna on the land. The second reason, collectively analysed is, the human approach of neglecting the oceans perceiving it to be too vast to be harmed in any way. This can be referred to as the Paradigm of Inexhaustibility. Owing to the above two factors, our knowledge of the seas remain limited.
The entire structure and function of the marine system is being jeopardized. There are several changes that have been unleashed by humans that are without precedent in the past several million years. With crucial mechanisms and functioning of the ecosystem being tampered with, imminent threats are being posed now. Marine biodiversity has been over looked in the past; therefore addressing them put forth several urgent reforms.
What are the threats to marine biodiversity?
Ocean dumping and ultraviolet-B radiations are the only two factors that have immediate threat causing elements in it. Human beings have posed a threat to the marine life only by prolonged use of long — transported materials that enter the open ocean system and also the concerns that are caused by effect of several organochlorine compounds on planktonic and benthic systems. Several of the threats caused to the oceanic diversity is in the coastal zone and are a direct effect of human population and the changing demographic trends. “An estimated 60 percent of the global population lives within roughly 100 kilometers of the shore. This means that about 3.4 million people rely heavily on marine habitats and resources for food, building materials, building sites and agricultural and recreational areas and use coastal areas as a dumping ground for sewage, garbage and toxic wastes.”
Complete loss of habitat is the prime threat to marine biodiversity, especially if contiguous but different habitats forming landscapes are lost. 30 % of the world’s coral reefs can be found in South Asia. Research states that nearly 60% of the coral reef has been destroyed after studies based on coral cover. And unless any steps are not taken immediately, the possibility of losing these coral reefs completely over the next 40 years are very high.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska that took place in 1989 is an example of widespread oil spills that can kill the birds and other marine animals that become coated with oil. However it has been stated that the proportion of oil spills causing pollution is relatively low. In fact, 77 % of all pollution comes from land based pollution. The world is a dumping ground for nearly 3.25 million tons of oil each year. However, a large proportion of the oil comes from street run off and not tanker spills.
Now what can be done?
Well, the legal framework that has been assisting biodiversity conservation has not been substantial or has been unable to resolve the impediments. There have been several law treaties which have been crucial in bringing about the reforms that the marine biodiversity sector needs. In the need of the hour it is very important to have reformatory law that can analyze the present situation and then bring forth law with the help of organizations like United Nations. The emergence of a more strongly expressed obligation to protect the marine environment is ratified by articles 192-5 of the 1982 UNCLOS, by regional treaties and other multilateral agreements negotiated progressively since 1954.
The International Convention for the Prevention of pollution from Ships or the MARPOL Convention and Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other Matter, also known as the renowned London Convention are the several highlighted treaties that have done work in protecting the sea. Legislation or some form of protection mechanism that is implemented without a mechanism for enforcement or governance will be largely ineffectual. So the need of the hour is to obtain a treaty that can be ratified by nations across the globe along with an effective implementation scheme. All this needs to be done before it gets too late to preserve the sea.