Last week we read an interesting article on Vox talking about the negative impact that we, as humans, are having on our oceans. The impact that humans have made on land dwelling species has long been documented. About 20,000 years ago all sorts of land mammals that we can barely comprehend were found in North America. There is evidence for beavers the size of bears, saber-toothed cats and sloths that would have weighed 3 tons. If you look at when humans entered each continent there is a subsequent decline of large mammal species. The cause of the decline is widely debated; it could have been that humans hunted these mammals, a climatic change could have been to blame or perhaps humans brought diseases with them that these animals couldn’t withstand. As technology has developed human impact has worsened. Guns, nets and toxic fumes can cause seriously dwindling numbers of species.
Human activity isn’t just impacting land dwelling species, our actions are now shaping our oceans too. To date humans have only totally eradicated 15 marine species, but predictions suggest that this number could increase soon. The most obvious negative marine activity that humans do is fishing, or over-fishing, but that is really just the start of the problem. Coral reefs, some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, are disappearing thanks to a combination of overfishing, dredging, pollution and warmer waters which are thought to be caused by climate change. Each year the number of commercial ships crossing the seas increases and so does the number of whales and other species hit by these ships. Additionally, nitrogen fertilizer that is used on farms is poured into the sea resulting in vast areas that are hostile to life.
So what can we do to stop this problem getting worse? Well, the good news is that humans actually have a good track record with helping species to recover. A great example of this is the sea otter. In the 1900s the sea otter was thought to be extinct, but in 1938 it was rediscovered and thanks to new protections the numbers have recovered well. Marine conservation programmes are vital in assisting with the protection of endangered marine species. If this is something that you would like to get involved with check out our different marine conservation programmes in Thailand with turtles and on a coral reef, in South Africa with sharks or in Costa Rica with turtles or contact [email protected] with any questions.