THE world’s largest ecosystem is the ocean, which covers three-quarters of the earth’s surface. Sea plants, such as Poseidonia, produce 70 per cent of the oxygen we breathe. There are wildlife and different forms of lives in deep water that are sources of our food, life, entertainment.
The central coastal region of Bangladesh has been identified as the habitat, migratory centre and wintering resort of about 100 species of guest birds from the East Asia-Australasian and central Asian regions. The coastal territory of Bangladesh is home to 10 endangered species of coastal birds. The west coast is home to mammals, such as the Royal Bengal Tiger and various saltwater crocodiles.
This enormous body of water is a fundamental source of food. The sea is the principal source of protein for over one billion people across the world. Fish makes up about 15.7 per cent of the animal protein consumed worldwide.
According to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Bangladesh ranks third in catching fish from inland natural resources, 25th in marine fishing and fifth in overall fisheries.
According to a report by the National Institutes of Health at the US National Library of Medicine, ‘91 per cent of marine species are still waiting to be described.’ The number of undiscovered and yet-to-be-described creatures living in the ocean up to 11,000 meters deep could easily go into the millions.
Indeed, Sustainable Development Goal 14 has been adopted in the Global Development Agenda 2030 for the sustainable use and conservation of seas, oceans and marine resources. Sustainable Development Goal 14 aims to manage and conserve marine waters and prevent pollution of coastal ecosystems. At the same time, it aims to raise awareness among the people about the importance of maritime existence, to protect marine resources under international law and to increase a sustainable use of the resources.
As a partner in the sustainable development agenda, Bangladesh is working to ensure sustainable and efficient management and conservation of marine resources.
To achieve this goal of sustainable development, the United Nations along with the people living in the coastal areas and all those engaged in sea-based livelihoods must play a conscious role.
To increase fish stocks in the Bay of Bengal by 2030, the government has formulated policies to curb irregular, unknown, illegal and unplanned fishing. The Marine Fisheries Act-2018 has been approved and is currently awaiting the approval of the ministry concerned. A vessel tracking monitoring office has already been set up at Patenga in Chattogram.
According to various studies, the oceans produce more oxygen than the Amazon forest. Rainfall is often thought to be the primary source of oxygen for the planet, but the truth is that rainfall is responsible for only 28 per cent of the earth’s oxygen and 70 per cent of the oceans.
Phytoplankton is a microscopic plant, an element of plankton. These tiny organisms supply oxygen. Phytoplankton absorbs carbon dioxide and emits oxygen. These are one of the smallest creatures on the planet, but one of the most important ones around us that help us to survive.
In many ways, the oceans control our climate, causing it to transport cold water to the tropics. Without these currents, the weather would be extreme in some areas and very few places would be liveable. It controls rainfall and drought. Containing 9 per cent of our planet’s water, almost every drop of water that falls on land comes from the oceans.
Many animals depend on and live in the ocean. The ocean is the abode of the greatest abundance of life on our planet. When we travel across the waves, we naturally see dolphins, whales or turtles coming down to catch their breath. From what we see only on the surface, there is more life under the sea than on land. Experts estimate that more than 300,000 different species live underwater.
All the animals that live in the ocean play a vital role in the trafficking chain of the ecosystem. Due to climate change, the sea is warming up, losing oxygen and lowering its pH. Many marine species are already adjusting their geographical and depth ranges with changes in ocean temperature. However, not all species will be able to move to avoid thermal stress, and global warming has already been linked to mass deaths in the Mediterranean.
We need to pay special attention to marine resources. A gross demand cannot be met by land-sharing resources or by importing from abroad. As a result, we have to look at the immense body of water in the sea. We have to find out what underwater natural resources are there in Bangladesh. Special attention should be paid to advanced technology and effective research.
The most commonly discussed natural resources at sea are natural gas, oil, enormous fish stocks, petroleum and various mineral resources. But beyond this, there are numerous kinds of resources.
The government has taken initiative to extract oil and gas from the Bay of Bengal, which will have a real impact not only on the coastal region but on the entire country. The first thing to do is to determine the number of resources, how to extract them and how to use those resources in a sustainable and environmentally-friendly way.
Touhidur Rahman Tuhin is an associate editor of the Environment Review.