Marine conservation is a relatively new concept. Only in the 1960s was it recognized that major fish population was on the decline and ecosystems were deteriorating dramatically.
Today, marine conservation has become one of the greatest scientific problems of our planet. Ecosystems have undergone irreversible damage, ocean management has become fragmented and oceans are managed independently of the terrestrial environment.
Marine conservation is also referred to as ocean conservation. The health of all life on the planet depends on a healthy ocean. With humans increasingly realizing their impact on the ocean, the field of marine conservation has burgeoned.
Marine conservation is the protection of ecosystems and marine species in seas and oceans worldwide. It involves not only restoration and protection of species, habitats, and populations but also reducing human activities like pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing, whaling, and other such issues impacting the marine habitats and lives. Marine conservation is also part of the broader field of marine conservation biology which uses science to solve issues of conservation.
Humans realized their impact on the environment in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In those years, Jacques Cousteau brought to homes the wonderful pictures of the oceans via television. With the improvement in scuba diving technology, more people became familiar with the oceans and undersea marine life. The recordings of whale songs led to a new sense of them as sentient beings and led to bans on whaling.
In the 1970’s many laws were passed for marine conservation like those for marine conservation, protection of endangered species, overfishing and cleaning of water bodies. The international law preventing pollution from ships was enacted to reduce ocean pollution.
Marine conservation can be implemented through laws. It can also be done by setting up marine protected areas and study of marine populations via stock assessments and mitigation of harmful human activities.
Education and outreach are an integral part of marine conservation. In the words of Baba Dioum (conservationist), “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.”
Emerging current issues in marine conservation are:
* Ocean acidification, i.e. the disruption in pH levels of ocean water having an impact on marine life.
* Warming of ocean waters and climate change. Changes in global climate caused by human-engineered pollution.
* The rise of sea levels because of human-generated pollution and melting of polar ice caps.
* Reductions in fish catch in marine fisheries.
* Setting up marine protected areas for protecting important habitats of recreationally and commercially valuable species and areas for breeding and feeding.
* Regulation of whaling.
* Protection of coral reefs and stopping coral bleaching.
* The global problem of invasive species.
* The issue of plastics and marine debris in the oceans.
* The problem of shark finning.
* The problem of oil spills (shot up into public memory through spills like those of Exxon Valdez).
* The issue of cetaceans in captivity.
* Study and protection of endangered marine species (North Atlantic whale, sea turtles, monk seals, etc.).
These are some of the pertinent issues of marine conservation.