Friday March 22, 2019
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The Ocean And Its Climate Crisis

Globally, fishing is a $140 billion to $150 billion business annually

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Oceans, boats
Lobster boats are moored in the harbor in Stonington, Maine. VOA

To stand at the edge of an ocean is to face an eternity of waves and water, a shroud covering seven-tenths of the Earth.

Hidden below are mountain ranges and canyons that rival anything on land. There you will find the Earth’s largest habitat, home to billions of plants and animals — the vast majority of the living things on the planet.

In this little-seen world, swirling super-highway currents move warm water thousands of miles north and south from the tropics to cooler latitudes, while cold water pumps from the poles to warmer climes.

Ocean
Artisanal fishing boats moored in the harbor at Nouadhibou, the main port in Mauritania. VOA

It is a system that we take for granted as much as we do the circulation of our own blood. It substantially regulates the Earth’s temperature, and it has been mitigating the recent spike in atmospheric temperatures, soaking up much of human-generated heat and carbon dioxide. Without these ocean gyres to moderate temperatures, the Earth would be uninhabitable.

In the last few decades, however, the oceans have undergone unprecedented warming. Currents have shifted. These changes are for the most part invisible from land, but this hidden climate change has had a disturbing impact on marine life — in effect, creating an epic underwater refugee crisis.

Reuters has discovered that from the waters off the East Coast of the United States to the coasts of West Africa, marine creatures are fleeing for their lives, and the communities that depend on them are facing disruption as a result.

ocean, fish, sardines
A fisherman unloads sardines at the port in Matosinhos, Portugal. VOA

As waters warm, fish and other sea life are migrating poleward, seeking to maintain the even temperatures they need to thrive and breed. The number of creatures involved in this massive diaspora may well dwarf any climate impacts yet seen on land.

In the U.S. North Atlantic, for example, fisheries data show that in recent years, at least 85 percent of the nearly 70 federally tracked species have shifted north or deeper, or both, when compared to the norm over the past half-century. And the most dramatic of species shifts have occurred in the last 10 or 15 years.

Fish have always followed changing conditions, sometimes with devastating effects for people, as the starvation that beset Norwegian fishing villages in past centuries when the herring failed to appear one season will attest. But what is happening today is different: The accelerating rise in sea temperatures, which scientists primarily attribute to the burning of fossil fuels, is causing a lasting shift in fisheries.

The changes below the surface are not an academic matter.

Ocean, lobster
Lindsay Copeland Frazier holds lobsters caught on her father’s boat in Stonington, Maine. VOA

Globally, fishing is a $140 billion to $150 billion business annually, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, and in some parts of the world, seafood accounts for half of the average person’s diet. But the effects of this mass migration in the world’s ocean are also much more intimate than that.

From lobstermen in Maine to fishermen in North Carolina, livelihoods are at stake. For sardine-eating Portuguese and seafood-loving Japanese, cultural heritages are at risk. And a burgeoning aquaculture industry, fueled in part by the effects of climate change, is decimating traditional fishing in West Africa and destroying coastal mangrove swamps in Southeast Asia.

Also Read: 60 percent Wildlife Lost In Just Four Decades: Report

Reuters journalists have spent more than a year collecting their stories and little-reported data to bring you this series revealing the natural disaster unfolding beneath the whitecaps. (VOA)

Next Story

Report Claims, As Many As 1 Billion Indians Live in Areas of Water Scarcity

The report also highlighted that India uses the largest amount of groundwater -- 24 per cent of the global total and the country is the third largest exporter of groundwater -- 12 per cent of the global total.

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water
Global groundwater depletion - where the amount of water taken from aquifers exceeds the amount that is restored naturally - increased by 22 per cent between 2000 and 2010, said the report, adding that India's rate of groundwater depletion increased by 23 per cent during the same period. Pixabay

As many as one billion people in India live in areas of physical water scarcity, of which 600 million are in areas of high to extreme water stress, according to a new report.

Globally, close to four billion people live in water-scarce areas, where, for at least part of the year, demand exceeds supply, said the report by non-profit organisation WaterAid.

This number is expected to go up to five billion by 2050, said the report titled “Beneath the Surface: The State of the World’s Water 2019”, released to mark World Water Day on March 22.

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Pure water droplet. Pixabay

Physical water scarcity is getting worse, exacerbated by growing demand on water resources and and by climate and population changes.

By 2040 it is predicted that 33 countries are likely to face extremely high water stress – including 15 in the Middle East, most of Northern Africa, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan and Spain. Many – including India, China, Southern Africa, USA and Australia – will face high water stress.

water
Globally, close to four billion people live in water-scarce areas, where, for at least part of the year, demand exceeds supply, said the report by non-profit organisation WaterAid. Pixabay

Global groundwater depletion – where the amount of water taken from aquifers exceeds the amount that is restored naturally – increased by 22 per cent between 2000 and 2010, said the report, adding that India’s rate of groundwater depletion increased by 23 per cent during the same period.

Also Read: Beware! Sipping Hot Tea Raises Risk of Esophageal Cancer

The report also highlighted that India uses the largest amount of groundwater — 24 per cent of the global total and the country is the third largest exporter of groundwater — 12 per cent of the global total.

The WaterAid report warned that food and clothing imported by wealthy Western countries are making it harder for many poor and marginalised communities to get a daily clean water supply as high-income countries buy products with considerable “water footprints” – the amount of water used in production — from water-scarce countries. (IANS)