Tag: ocean life

The World’s Marine Life Population Has Declined By Half In The Last 40 Years

A major report by the World Wildlife Foundation has found that the world’s oceans are in peril, with some marine populations declining by almost half in the last 40 years. The scale of the loss is unprecedented and further decline could prove catastrophic for the human population. But what can be done?

What’s Causing The Decline?

The world’s ocean life provides important ecosystem services such as the provision of food, medicines, and livelihood. For thousands of years, mankind has turned to the seas for life-giving sustenance. Yet, in recent centuries, technology has allowed us to take more than ever before–and that’s not exactly a good thing.

Enormous commercial fleets, sophisticated computer equipment, and even government subsidies have led to too many boats on the water and too much marine life being caught. On top of that, poor fishery management, bycatch of juvenile fish, and pirate fishers (boats that don’t follow the rules) only exacerbate the problem.

In the U.S., for example, roughly 17% of major fish stocks are not being fished sustainably–despite having strong fishery laws. Worldwide, more than a pound of marine animals are being caught for every four pounds of fish. Many are killed in the nets or are later tossed overboard to die. And shrimping is even worse: four or more pounds of unwanted animals are caught for every one pound of shrimp.

And while exploitation of natural resources is the major threat to marine life, climate change is changing the oceans faster than ever before. Even with their vast ability to absorb heat and carbon dioxide, the oceans were 0.17 Celsius warmer in 2017 than in 2000–and while that number may seem negligible, it’s actually taken a huge toll. From coral bleaching, to fish migration, to acidification, the ocean is reaching the limits of what it can actually handle.

Which Species Are In Danger?

All of the world’s ocean life is at risk, but marine creatures of the Pacific Ocean are in greater peril than the rest. This is because there are fewer regulations in Asia, and they are fishing more waters. Of particular concern is the Chinese practice of “shark-finning”, or removing just the fins from the shark and throwing the body back in the water.

In addition, global populations of the Scombridae family of food fish (tunas, mackerels, and bonitos) have fallen by an astounding 74%, while other creatures such as the Hawksbill Turtle and Hawaiin Monk Seal are critically endangered.

It’s not just the fish and animals that are in trouble. Their habitats are, too. Some, such as mangroves and seagrasses, have seen a significant decline. It is also estimated that 75% of the remaining coral reefs in the world are currently in danger–and while they are technically an animal, they also serve as a home for many other creatures.

What Can Be Done?

The scope of the problem may seem overwhelming, but there are concrete steps that can be taken to help restore the world’s oceans.

According to the WWF report, “Creating networks of well-managed Marine Protected Areas is a proven way to enable wildlife and habitats to recover. Pushing for a strong global deal on climate change would help the seas sustain life far into the future. Taking serious steps to implement this year’s Sustainable Development Goals in the UK and abroad could help build a global economy that values natural capital, respects natural habitats and rewards responsible business.”

In addition, each one of us can make a difference every day by choosing sustainably harvested fish, volunteering for a marine rescue center, or just taking shorter showers.

Sea Cucumbers Are Fueling The Black Market

Sea cucumbers are spiny, squishy-bodied creatures that live on the ocean floor. They are mostly sedentary and feed by waving their feathery tentacles through the water and filtering out microorganisms. For a long time, nobody cared much about or bothered these strange animals, but a recent surge in popularity has led to drastic overfishing, driving multiple species of sea cucumber to threatened or endangered levels.

Their Role In The Environment

The impact of sea cucumbers on their local ecosystems is far from trivial. These creatures are filtering machines, removing toxins and microscopic debris from their surroundings and replacing it with clean seawater and sediment. In areas where sea cucumber populations have declined, the amount of particulate matter suspended in the water has increased noticeably, leaving the water murky.

When these crucial animals are removed from their homes in coral reefs, the rate of coral bleaching increases drastically. Sea cucumbers play an essential role in the balancing of ocean pH as rising carbon dioxide levels make oceans more acidic. While these creatures continue to thrive in their deeper habitats, out of the reach of commercial fishers, populations in shallower waters are rapidly depleted.

As A Delicacy

In many Asian countries, especially in China, sea cucumbers are considered a delicacy. Demand for the peculiar-looking food has soared in recent years with the growth of the middle-class population in China. Adding to its allure, the seafood is also reported to have beneficial medicinal qualities.

Some studies have shown that the flesh of sea cucumbers does contain compounds that can help soothe arthritis pains and possibly slow the growth of cancerous cells. As amazing as those claims are, more consumers are drawn to sea cucumbers as they are believed to be an aphrodisiac. Domestic fisheries cannot keep up with the local demand, so the countries have outsourced to international exporters, many of which operate under the nose of the law. The sudden boom in popularity has created a lucrative black market niche that is causing incredible environmental damage.

Black Market Goods

The black market trade of sea cucumbers is a staple in some coastal economies, particularly in Morocco, where the shallow reefs a short distance offshore were home to thousands of these animals. Weak legislation surrounding international exports and local fishing has facilitated the overfishing of marine life. When a town comes to depend on the capture and export of an animal like sea cucumbers, which are being harvested more quickly than they can reproduce, the fisheries tend to become exhausted in a matter of years.

Once a local population has been depleted, the market moves on to the next fishery. This migrating market is not only detrimental to the coastal varieties of sea cucumbers, but it devastates the host towns by disrupting their local economies. Families who had once made their living doing legitimate work end up drawn in with the promise of quick and easy cash. As the resource dries up, money becomes harder to come by, and families find that they have less and less to live on as time goes on. Eventually, the buyers decide that the fishery is no longer lucrative and they move on to the next location.

This Amazing Blue Jellyfish Recently Spotted In NJ Isn’t Actually A Jellyfish At All

The famous New Jersey beaches are no stranger to odd creatures. Visitors have spotted everything from humpback whales to UFOs . . . and, of course, the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore. But the latest New Jersey beach sighting has even the experts baffled.

Strange, bright blue “jellyfish” (the likes of which Jersey residents have never seen before) recently began washing up on the sand. Locals were initially wary of the turquoise blobsbut as it turns out, they’re mostly harmless.

So what exactly are these tentacled creatures? And how did they get here?

Polyps, Not Jellyfish

The blue button (or porpita porpita) isn’t actually a jellyfish at all. It’s a Hydrozoa, or a colony of polyps connected to each other through a series of tube-like channels. According to marine biologist Paul Bologna, the polyps “come together to create a super beasteach small cluster within the creature plays a different role, like reproduction, nutrition, or protection.

You may not be familiar with the blue button, but you’ve almost certainly heard of his bigger, badder cousin, the Portuguese Man O’ War. The Man O’ War can deliver a sting powerful enough to take down a humanand while the button isn’t nearly as tough, it is venomous. Similar to most jellyfish, touching a blue button might leave you with a slight irritation or mild rash.

Portugese Man of War

The stringy appendages, which hang off the round “button” part of the blue button, are used to stun prey. Oddly, they are not actually tentacles, but rather hydroid colonies. Each strand is made of numerous branchlets, each of which ends in a tiny knob of stinging cells. The button itself is filled with gas and keeps the creature afloat.

How Did They Get Here?

After spotting the first button last week, Holly Horner of Egg Harbor, New Jersey, said, “It’s not something I’ve ever seen here before, and I’ve been walking down that beach since I was 10-years old. I’m 55 now.” In fact, it doesn’t appear that anyone has ever spotted a blue button in NJ before.

Unlike real jellyfish, the blue button can’t swimthey just float on the surface, moved along by the ocean current and the wind. It would take enormous water pressure to move them very far.

In this instance, experts believe that Hurricane Florence pushed them, and several other species of warm-water jellies, out of the Gulf Stream and up the coast towards New Jersey.

Will They Stick Around?

Bologna stated that he’s seen blue buttons off the Florida coast but never in New Jerseyand he doesn’t expect them to survive in the Garden State for very long.

The tiny predators mostly live in saltwater, and typically in sub-tropical and tropical waters (like the Gulf of Mexico or the Mediterranean Sea), which is why it was so shocking to see them show up on a New Jersey beach.

Unfortunately, they will likely all die off as the water temperatures drop.

Seagrass Is Dying Out And Nobody Seems To Notice

When people think of how global warming is affecting the oceans, images of bleached coral reefs, melting icebergs, and devastating storms tend to come to mind. What people don’t usually think about is the habitat destruction that comes with those things or the loss of vital ecosystems. Seagrass habitats are disappearing at a rate of roughly one football field every 30 seconds, so why isn’t anyone talking about it?

Major Decline

Since global temperatures began their steady rise around the time of the industrial revolution, our environment has been taking the blows as humans have continued to generate pollution and dump it into the earth, water, and sky. Species have been wiped out or pushed to the brink of extinction by our actions more than once. Currently, the outlook for seagrass in particular, is pretty grim. The unremarkable plants haven’t drawn much media attention, but their loss would be devastating in many ways. The saddest thing is that their decline is entirely the fault of humans.

Water pollution plays as much of if not more of a role in the demise of seagrass as rising oceanic temperatures. In areas where water pollution from farms, industrial sites, or municipal waste is high, seagrasses have declined rapidly over the years. On the other hand, some places in Asia have taken a pro-conservation stance. Trees have been planted to prevent erosion in some areas, and legislation has been sought to limit the amount of nutrient pollution and waste that flow into the oceans. Areas with these protections have seen a significant turnaround in the health of their marine estuaries. In some places, the seagrass growth has surpassed its previous peak, which was recorded in the 1950s.


What many people fail to realize is that the disappearance of seagrass will cost the Earth more than just an important ecological niche. Seagrass meadows are one of the ocean’s most prominent carbon dioxide sinks. The oceans themselves are estimated to store around 93% of the world’s carbon dioxide in their water, plant life, algae, and corals. Rising ocean temperatures decrease the water’s ability to hold in carbon dioxide, and the shift in underwater climate is taking out corals left and right. Combine those factors with the devastation that comes with the loss of seagrass and things don’t look pretty.

On a global average, we’re losing seagrass meadows at a rate of roughly one football field every thirty seconds. Over the course of a single day, Earth loses over 3,800 square acres of seagrass. If loss continues at this rate, we’ll see an annual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide equal to a billion metric tons. For comparison, that’s nearly the same amount of carbon dioxide that Japan emits every year. Japan is the fifth-highest carbon dioxide producing country in the world. To add another source of carbon emissions on that scale would have incredibly detrimental effects on the Earth’s climate.

A Place To Call Home

As we mentioned earlier, some areas have begun concentrated efforts to protect seagrass beds and raise awareness about the loss of these vital habitats. Southeast Asia, in particular, has taken a stand against the decimation of seagrass meadows, though with a secondary motive in mind. These underwater fields are home to a very peculiar and nearly-endangered species called the dugong.

A cousin of the manatee, dugongs are native to the waters around Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and other areas between the South Pacific and Indian oceans. Dugongs aren’t the only creatures who make their homes in seagrass meadows. Fish, crabs, seabirds, and turtles also live in these habitats, and their destruction is threatening the species’ survival. Seagrass meadows are no small deal, either. Some of them are large enough to be seen from space.


Around the world, organizations have been cropping up to defend and restore these marine habitats. Although the effort required to match pace with the level of destruction is immense, these organizations aren’t going to let that get in their way. One of the actions taken by conservation groups is the cultivation and transplantation of seagrass from healthy areas to threatened areas. Much like the process of seeding coral reefs, repopulating damaged seagrass meadows can help the ecosystem regain a foothold in a given area.

In addition to encouraging the regrowth of damaged regions, conservation groups look farther inland for solutions to coastal problems. The conservation groups push for legislation to restrict what is allowed to flow into rivers and out to sea in an effort to reduce the amount of land-based pollution to coastal waters. Fertilizer from farmlands often wash into the oceans and cause a nutrient imbalance in estuaries like seagrass meadows, throwing off the balance in the ecosystem and threatening less-opportunistic species. Restricting the amount of traffic through the habitats also allows the meadows to regrow with minimal disturbance.


If the conservation efforts around the world get their way, the seagrass meadows should make a spectacular comeback. In some areas, preservation and reseeding have allowed seagrass fields to turn back the clock more than half a century. The newly-expanded healthy habitat creates ample living space for animals like dugongs, rays, crabs, and small fish to hide and thrive. Should other conservation projects have similar success, we could potentially see a full reversal to the devastation we are currently facing.

While aiding any local (or global) restoration groups is a great way to get involved, using your voice and influence to make sure that the people in charge make smart decisions about our climate is equally important. Seagrass destruction isn’t a flashy topic and it easily gets swept under the rug. Raising awareness in your community, especially if you happen to live in a coastal region, could make a world of a difference. At the end of the day, all the little steps you take to preserve the planet we live on add up to something grand. Being that little bit of change or the spark that ignites a flame of informed action in your community could just be what this planet needs to make a turnaround.