U.S. National Park Service (USNPS)
The dazzling vibrancy of coral reefs, the fleeting streaks of color as shorebirds alight, flying up and above the waves, the sight of young sea turtles flecked with granules of sand, clambering for open ocean, the bioluminescence of extraordinary organisms churning in deep sea; When we catch glimpses of the myriad life dotting the ocean’s blue expanse, we are often struck by its beauty. But marine life is not only vibrant; it is vital.
So much as the visible compels us, it is the invisible that sustains us. Marine microbes, which drive carbon sequestration in the oceans, comprise more than 98% of ocean biomass. Floating in delicate glass walls of Silica, diatoms, a type of phytoplankton, produce one fifth of the air we breathe. Collectively, phytoplankton are responsible for every other breath we take. These tiny organisms also form the basis of marine foods webs that support Earth’s largest animal, the blue whale.
U.S. National Park Service (USNPS)
Larger species also support marine ecosystems. Green sea turtles, for example, foster healthy seagrass meadows and coral reefs, critical habitats for commercial fish species that billions depend upon for their livelihoods or food security. Whales act as ecosystem engineers, recycling nutrients and increasing ocean productivity. As top predators, sharks are good indicators of ocean health and keep marine food webs in balance. These are just a few examples of the roles marine species play on the greater stage of life.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Federal protection of endangered species has allowed some marine life to come back from dramatic declines: 77% of marine mammals and sea turtles listed under the Endangered Species Act are recovering in population size. In 2016, humpback whales had recovered so much that most populations were taken off the endangered species list. Marine mammals not listed as endangered are still protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Despite recovery of some species, many forms of life, such as shore birds, are still facing rapid decline. A confluence of climatic threats to the ocean pushes marine life to a precarious existence. The ocean is 30% more acidic than it was before industrialization. As the ocean absorbs carbon from the atmosphere, it forms carbonic acid which dissolves calcium carbonate structures of corals, mussels, clams, oysters, and starfish. The ocean is not only acidifying but also gasping for air: over the past 50 years, the volume of ocean with no oxygen has quadrupled. Oxygen is consumed by algal blooms spurred by warming temperatures and nutrient overload from sewage and agricultural run-off spilling from land into our seas.
We come from life in the ocean — the chemistry of our bodies is testament to that past. As Rachel Carson wrote in The Sea Around Us,
“Fish, amphibian, and reptile, warm-blooded bird and mammal — each of us carries in our veins a salty stream in which the elements sodium, potassium, and calcium are combined in almost the same proportions as in sea water.”
The makeup of our atoms is not unlike that of the sea. Without ever splashing our feet into its salty waters, we all connect to the ocean in this way.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
Some may know the ocean personally, some may know it through photos, art, or the work of marine scientists such as Rachel Carson, whose book Under the Sea-Wind transforms an imagination of ocean life into a vivid reality. The RCC seeks to continue to bring the ocean to life, highlighting our interconnectedness with the sea and our need to protect it.
Latest News About
Wind Opponents Spread Myth About Dead Whales
They claim the offshore wind is responsible for a spike in whale deaths. Experts don’t buy it, but interest groups backed by fossil fuel money are spreading false information.
Activists and groups that oppose offshore wind energy have hit upon a new theme to recruit environmentally minded people for their campaign. They are linking offshore wind development to a sight and a smell that no one likes: a rotting humpback whale carcass washed up on a beach or bobbing with the current as seagulls pick at its flesh. Read more
Ocean Scientists Concerned Over Uptick of Whale Deaths on Northeast Coasts
Whales are considered the ocean’s “canary of the coal mine.”
There’s been a common sight on Northeast beaches this summer: an alarmingly rise in whale carcasses washing in from the Atlantic Ocean.
Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned over the number of dead whales, an animal that provides a lens into the general condition of the ocean and the beings that reside there, Chris Robbins, associate director of science for Ocean Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit, told ABC News. Read more
MARTA Partners With Georgia DNR to Transform Old Railcars Into Marine Reefs
MARTA is partnering with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Reef Project to contribute railcars from MARTA’s original fleet.
The old railcars are being retired as the new CQ400 carriages are added to the rolling stock. The Reef Project deploys large objects to the bottom of the ocean that over time develop into reef habitats for marine wildlife. Read more
Climate Change is Destroying Reefs, But the Effects Are More Than Ecological – Coral’s Been Woven Into Culture and Spirituality for Centuries
Hurricane Idalia made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Aug. 30, 2023, bringing surging seas and winds over 100 mph. Meanwhile, another climate emergency has been unfolding along Florida’s coast this summer: a marine heat wave bleaching corals throughout the world’s third-largest barrier reef.
Similarly, ocean temperatures in many parts of the Atlantic and Pacific are at record highs, with reefs from Colombia to Australia showing signs of stress in recent years. Read more
Sign Up Here to Receive the Monthly RCC Coasts and Ocean Observer and Other RCC newsletters, Information and Alerts.
Click here for Past Issues of the RCC Coasts and Ocean Observer
Click here for Previous Marine Life News