Man's impact on the oceans

orange_roughy_greenpeaceDeep-sea exploration over the last two decades has shown that the deep-sea environment has already been impacted by man. Resources from the deep are increasingly exploited and clear signs of direct and indirect anthropogenic impacts are now visible in many deep-sea ecosystems. Direct impacts of human activities relate to existing or future exploitation of deep-sea resources (e.g. fisheries, hydrocarbon extraction, mining, bioprospecting), to seabed uses (e.g., pipelines, cable laying, carbon sequestration) and to pollution (e.g. contamination from land-based sources/activities, waste disposal, dumping, noise, impacts of shipping and maritime accidents). Indirect impacts relate to climate change, ocean acidification and atmospheric ozone depletion. This raises a series of concerns because deep-sea processes and ecosystems are not only important for the marine web of life but they also fundamentally contribute to global biogeochemical patterns that support all life on Earth. Moreover they provide direct goods and services that are of growing economic significance.

Above right: Fishing for Orange Roughy - a species under threat from over-fishing in the world's oceans. Image copyright Greenpeace. 

lisbon_canyon_litterMost of today’s understanding of the deep oceans comes from the natural sciences, supplemented by data from industry. But socio-economic research in support of the sustainable use and conservation of deep-sea resources is lagging behind. There is a clear need to identify the societal and economic implications of human activities and impacts, and to investigate the key socioeconomic and governance issues related to the conservation, management and sustainable use of the deep-seas.

Left: Litter in the Lisbon Canyon. Image courtesy NOCS/JC10.

 

Related links

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster:

It is now more than 8 months since the largest marine oil spill in history began in the Gulf of Mexico. Many questions remain regarding the causes, magnitude and consequences of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Larger questions remain regarding offshore drilling and the use of energy and society. Boston University, Louisiana State University, and the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) have created a resource that will allow you to explore these questions and others. Visit the Online Clearinghouse for Education and Networking: Oil Interdisciplinary Learning (OCEAN-OIL), with more than 1000 articles on the topic, photo gallery, statistics and more.  Also see latest news from the EC's DG Environment: Deepwater Horizon: the fate of petroleum in the deep ocean.