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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

The Health of the Ocean

Jan 03, 2016 11:37AM ● By Nicole Dallara

Take a deep breath. Now take another deep breath. The oxygen you inhaled on your second breath came from the ocean, a gift to us all as it provides 70 percent of the world’s oxygen according to the National Geographic Society. Specifically, phytoplankton, tiny organisms found at the water’s surface, are responsible for producing much of the air we breathe. As you can see, the health of the ocean directly affects us and, unfortunately, the ocean is under the weather.

Our planet is warming, with 2015 set to be the hottest year on record. A warming planet leads to a warming ocean, which leads to coral bleaching, or whitening. The ocean has already lost about 40 percent of its coral reefs, which are vitally important for the ocean ecosystem, supporting a quarter of all marine life. Loss of coral reefs affects the ocean’s food chain and the food supply for many nations who depend on fishing as an industry and food source. Researchers have also found that the ocean is absorbing 93 percent of the additional heat energy trapped by greenhouse gas emissions. That absorption accelerates the warming of the waters and leads to acidification or the ocean. This increase in acidity is threatening the health of our oceans and the species who inhabit them. That threat can be seen especially in shellfish: Studies have shown that the shells of tiny snails are dissolving because of the increased amount of acid in the water.

Although the future may look grim and the issues seem too big to take on, we can and must be a part of the solution. Our everyday actions, from the foods we grow and eat to the cars we drive, greatly affect our planet and its bodies of water. It is important to share information about solutions with family, friends, co-workers, on social media, and as far and wide as you can. If you are already using reusable water bottles, bags, and utensils, take it to the next level: drive less, eat less meat, get involved in your local community and with politics.

When Mother Nature is sick, it is our duty to nurse her back to health. As Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action, once said, “What’s not to love about the ocean? It’s resilient. If you give the ocean a chance to heal, it can come back. That’s a powerful message for all of us.’’

Nicole Dallara is the Communications & Outreach Coordinator for Clean Ocean Action, a Highlands, NJ-based organization whose goal is to improve the degraded water quality of the marine waters off the New Jersey/New York coast. For more information, visit

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