Exploring the Ocean Planet; The Oceans; Scientific American Presents; by Menduno; 6 Page(s)
With El Nino kicking up a storm and the motion picture Titanic setting boxoffice records, public awareness of the ocean may have reached an all-time high in 1998. But those whose knowledge about the marine realm comes mainly from television meteorologists and Hollywood are missing the boat (if you'll pardon the expression). The ocean is far more complicated, compelling, critical and-unfortunately-threatened than they may have been led to believe. A few alarming facts:
1.)Fifteen out of 17 of the largest fisheries on this planet are so heavily exploited that reproduction is not sustaining them. 2.)Sixty percent of the world's coral reefs, known as the rain forests of the ocean because they contain so much biodiversity, are threatened by pollution, sedimentation and bleaching (which is believed to be caused primarily by rising water temperatures). 3.)Two thirds of the world's population live within 60 kilometers (37 miles) of the coast (in the U.S., the proportion is just over 50 percent). As the global population swells toward six billion, pollution and coastal development are overloading ecosystems along vast stretches of shoreline. In the U.S. alone in 1996, these pressures led to more than 2,600 beach closings, 2,200 fishery advisories and dozens of documented "dead zones," in which large areas of ocean become largely and suddenly devoid of life.