Protecting the Oceans

October 17, 2014 • Volume 24, Issue 37
Can damage to marine life be halted?
By Jennifer Weeks


A volunteer collects plastic bags and other rubbish from Manila Bay (Getty Images/Jay Directo)
A volunteer collects plastic bags and other rubbish from Manila Bay during an ocean cleanup day on July 3, 2014. Plastic waste and other forms of pollution, including toxic chemicals and nutrients from farms and urban runoff, are reducing water quality worldwide and killing fish and shellfish. (Getty Images/Jay Directo)

Oceans cover more than 70 percent of Earth's surface and are essential for human life. They supply much of the world's food and oxygen. Today, however, many parts of the world's oceans are overfished and polluted. Climate change is altering marine ecology, and rising water temperatures are severely harming shellfish, coral reefs and other resources. Excess nutrients from land-based sources such as wastewater and fertilizer have created hundreds of ocean “dead zones,” huge areas depleted of oxygen, where little or no sea life can survive. In the Gulf of Mexico, scientists are still assessing the effects on marine life stemming from the massive 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Ocean exploration has fired human imagination for centuries, and scientists are still finding new life forms, many of which could yield new medicines and other valuable products. But experts warn that without better protection, ocean water quality, fish stocks and marine habitats will suffer long-lasting damage.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Water Pollution
Jul. 15, 2016  Drinking Water Safety
Oct. 17, 2014  Protecting the Oceans
Jun. 18, 2010  Water Shortages
Aug. 01, 2003  Water Shortages
Nov. 24, 2000  Water Quality
Dec. 15, 1995  Global Water Shortages
Feb. 11, 1994  Water Quality
Apr. 19, 1991  California: Enough Water for the Future?
Jan. 30, 1987  Western Water
Jul. 12, 1985  Preventing Groundwater Contamination
Jan. 14, 1977  Western Water: Coming Crisis
Feb. 15, 1974  Drinking Water Safety
Aug. 11, 1965  Water Resources and National Water Needs
Dec. 08, 1960  Pollution of Water Supplies
Oct. 02, 1959  Water Needs and Resources
Jul. 01, 1955  Water for the Future
Jul. 24, 1953  Water Pollution
Feb. 15, 1950  Water Supply
Oct. 03, 1947  Unclean Waters
Sep. 17, 1935  Stream Pollution and the Disposal of Waste
Climate Change
National Parks and Reserves
Water Pollution
Water Resources